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OF CANADA. Limited 


Ponriiit of John Rccil piiintcd liy Rolicrt 1 hillowcll niul pi-cscnunl i<i 
I hirvni'd Univci'sity by tiic Ihirvurd Alumni John Roc-d ( loniiniiico. 


GfanviUe Hicks 

With the Assistmce of 
John Stuart 



J ohn Reed | 

Tke M.akmg of a J^evolutionary | 



















XVn. AMERICA, I 9«8 303 





viii CONTF.N'I'S 






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Boymood In Portland 

J OHN Reed was born, October 20, 1887, in his grandmother’s 
mansion, Cedar I lill, and there was another celebration in 
a house that had conic to be known for its festivities. It 
was a large house and possibly the most pretentious Portland 
could boast. Ilcnry D. Green, who had not lived to see the birth 
of his first grandson, had built it ten years before on a spur of 
the hills west of Portland, the first of the first citizens to move 
away from the little cluster of wealthy homes on the flat land 
near the river. Cedar Hill was the show-place of the city, a real 
French chateau, people said, with formal gardens, stables, green- 
houses, and a glass grape arbor. 

I'hc child was christened John Silas in fashionable Trinity 
h'piscopal Cvhurch, and, while Mrs. Green entertained her friends 
and the friends of the father and mother, Lee Sing, her cook, 
celebrated in his own way in his cellar room. He lit joss sticks, 
burned paper prayers, and gave a feast of dried shark-fins, sea- 
soned chickcn-girxards, and sam-shui to his Chinese friends. 
Later that evening his mistress found him alone in the pantry, 
very drunk, with twelve of her Royal Worcester cups lined up 
before him, drinking whiskey out of one after the other. 

The chateau on Cedar Hill was the outward mark of Henry 
Green’s eminence among the pioneer builders of Portland. He 
was not quite among the first settlers, for the city had been 
established in 1845, and the foundations of its first fortunes had 
been laid in the early fifties by I Icnry W. Corbett, Ilcnry Fail- 
ing, William S. Ladd, and Simeon G. Reed. These were the 
builders of the steamship lines, the banks, and the railroads. But 


JOHN RF,ia) 

Circcn had his share of tlic profit and the glory, lie had rmmdcd 
the Horn in 1853 to join his brother in Astoria, where John 
Green and 1 L C. Leonard had, rlircc years earlier, established 
the only competitor of the 1 ludson Bay Cioinpany’s trading-post 
at the mouth of titc Columbia River, And ii\ 1H56 he arid his 
brother had moved their business from A.storia to Portland. 

Three years later the Greens founded the Portland Gaslight 
Company and built the first gas works in Oregon- thc third, 
they boasted, to be constructed on the Pacific Cio.ast. In 1861 
they purchased the Portland water works from the original 
grantee, whose plant consisted of one mile of wooden pipe and 
a pump located on a small stream. Soon afterwaixl they promoted 
the Oregon Iron Works Company, the first company on the 
Coast for smelting iron ores and manufacturing pig irom With 
these three enterprises, all highly successful as Portland grew, 
Mr. Green had reason to compete with the city’s best in the 
splendor of his home. 

All Portland was proud of Cedar Hill and proud of its builder. 
Though it was common knowledge that Henry Green drank to 
excess, everyone pointed out that he never appeared in public 
when intoxicated and that, whatever his condition, he was a 
charming gentleman. He had died in 1885 New York City, 
whither he had gone on business after visiting the New Orleans 
exposition and attending the inauguration of President Cleve- 
land. A friend, who had been with him in Washington, wrote a 
fulsome eulogy for the Portland paper. “In all the countless 
throng of distinguished men that walked those streets, embrac- 
ing the aristocracy of both continents,” he said, speaking of the 
inaugural ceremonies, “there was no more graceful figure nor 
flashing presence than the tall and sinewy figure of this repre- 
sentative Oregon man, who moved through those courtly 
throngs with the aplomb of Alcibiadcs himself. . . . Me will be 
missed by the Hard-faring poor, whose sufferings he relieved 
and kept his munificence a profound secret. He will be missed 
by the rich, who know the value of that charity which gives no 
alms but pours out tender words in hours of grief and mental 
suffering. He was a self-poised character, a man who rose tO 


wealth without resorting to oppression and one whose courage 
was only equaled by his modesty.” 

I'his was John Reed’s grandfather. His grandmother, like her 
hu.shand, was horn in New York State. Slie was the granddaugh- 
ter of Christian VVilmerding, a German merchant whose de- 
scendants had married into the richest families of the East. Char- 
lotte Joites (ireen was (]uite as proud of her cousins-Paynes, 
Fields, and VVilmcrtlings -as she was of her husband’s success in 
pioneer Porrlaiul. 1 ler two daughters were educated in a finish- 
ing school in New York (iity, and .she was the first woman in 
Portland to have a carriage, and with a coachman and a foot- 
man too. 

After Mr. Green’s death, Cedar Hill became more famous 
than ever for its hospitality. Portland was both delighted and 
shocked by Charlotte Green’s parties. In the summer the guests 
danced on the lawn, which was lighted by flaring gas-jets that 
had been piped to the tops of the pointed firs, and in the winter 
the ballroom on the third floor was crowded and gay. Everyone 
wanted to be included in these parties, aitd almost everyone was. 
The next day those who had been shocked had plenty to dis- 
cuss; those who had not were usually recovering. 

Portland was overwhelmingly conservative. Its early settlers 
had come either from New ICngland or the older southern states, 
and it believed that it was less raw and western than other 
towns. On the surface, at least, it was an orderly city, proud of 
its churches, restrained in its manners, suspicious of gayety and 
color. It obliterated as quickly as possible all traces of the fron- 
tier and cultivated the decorum of a Ma.ssachuserts town. Social 
snobbery quickly developed, and a sense of what should and 
what should not be done. Charlotte Grecn-whom everyone 
affectionately called Sudic— refused to conform. Exuberant, the 
best of good company, liked even when not approved, she went 
her own rather boisterous way, hut at the same time insisted 
upon and held Iter position of social prestige. It was an achieve- 
ment that Portland marveled at. 

Mrs. Green’s children were almost as popular as she. There 
were four of them, two boys and two girls. One of the sons, 
Ray, was often away in far corners of the world, but returned 


to tell hilarious stories. Both of the daughters were married soon 
after their father’s death: Katherine to an army officer, Lieu- 
tenant Edward Burr, who was transferred not long afterward to 
the East, and Margaret to C J. Reed, a promising young busi- 
ness man, newly come to the city. 

The young C. J. Reeds thought of themselves, without im- 
modesty, as belonging to Portland’s best. Margaret Reed, though 
less unconventional than her mother, was quite as gifted a host- 
ess, a well-bred, charming, rather dainty woman, fastidious and 
a little proud. Charles Jerome Reed— always called C. J.— had, 
during his few years in the city, won a reputation both as a 
sound business man and as a wit. He had come to Portland as 
the representative of the D. M. Osborne Company of Auburn, 
New York, which was his birthplace, and he supervised the sale 
of their agricultural implements throughout the Northwest. The 
business was prosperous, and he was personally so well liked that 
he was made a member and then the president of the exclusive 
Arlington Club. Presiding at the daily lunch table of the club, 
he jeered at all comers, and his sallies at the expense of the city’s 
dignitaries were quoted for many years. Indeed, his fame trav- 
eled up and down the Coast, and he became a member of the 
Bohemian Club of San Francisco and a great favorite at its meet- 

John Reed was born, as he was eventually to realize, into a 
position of privilege. Throughout his youth, though his father’s 
fortunes varied, there was never a time when he was conscious 
of deprivation of any sort. Without being wealthy, his mother 
and father were able to give him anything that a rich man’s son 
in the Portland of that day was likely to have. They could give 
him, too, the sense of being well-born, respected, superior to the 
mass of people. The desirability of wealth and social position was 
taken for granted by the Reeds. But at the same time there was a 
feeling that nothing could justify the sacrifice of independence. 
John Reed had the example of his grandmother, who insisted on 
living her own life as she saw fit. More important was the ex- 
ample of his father, a business man and a successful one, who 
never hesitated to say what he thought, a born fighter, though as 
yet he had found no cause worth fighting for. There were tradi- 



tions of conformity and traditions of rebellion. In their genera- 
tion Jack’s younger brother Harry became the conformist and 
Jack the rebel. “Harry is a lamb,” Mrs. Green once said, “but 
Jack is a lion. I prefer lions.” 

When the young Reeds moved to a house down in the city, 
there were still gay parties and many guests, and they maintained 
an establishment appropriate to their position. Jackie had a nurse, 
of course; in fact, there was a succession of them, for Mrs. Reed 
was not easy to work for. One of them, who remained for ten 
days, always remembered the little boy as affectionate, lovable, 
and bright. She left because Mrs. Reed rebuked her for letting 
a little girl from a poorer section kiss Jackie, and because she 
was required to wear a cap and apron. 

The servants John Reed best remembered were Chinese. 
There was a cook whom his father particularly liked, and with 
whom he discussed business and politics. The Chinese fascinated 
the little boy with their tales of ghosts, their superstitions, and 
the rumors of their bloody feuds. He was curious about their 
food and drink and all their customs. And later he attributed to 
his intimacy with them his easy acceptance of what was different 
from himself, his zest for foreign food and strange customs, his 
happy sharing in other ways of life than his own. 

The Chinese seemed romantic to John Reed. He felt, looking 
back, that there was something a little fantastic about his whole 
boyhood: pigtails and gongs and fluttering red paper, and his 
grandmother’s glamorous chateau with dancing under the flaring 
trees, and the carriage with the blooded horses and the footman. 
Then there was his Uncle Ray, who was interested in coffee 
plantations in South America, and came home with strange tales 
of revolutions, battles, and treasures. Once he told how he had 
been a leader of a successful revolution in Guatemala, and had 
been made secretary of state. His first act, he said, was to appro- 
priate the funds of the national treasury to give a grand state 
ball; his second was to declare war on Germany because he had 
flunked his German course in college. 

When John Reed discovered books, he surrendered to ro- 
mance. From fairy tales, he went on to the stories of King 


Arthur, and then to history. The histories of the crusades— noble 
kings, knights in armor, brave crossbowmen— gripped him. He 
began to invent stories of his own, telling them to the cliildrcn 
of the neighborhood, whom he terrified with his accounts of the 
monster called the Elormuz- and terrified himself too. And in 
time he wrote his stories down, planned a comic history of the 
United States, and wrote and staged his own plays. 

He began to discover Portland. The Willamette River divided 
the city, though the area on the eastern side was largely ignored 
by such people as the Reeds. Its streets were muddy; some of its 
houses poised uncertainly on the edges of gulleys; it could be 
reached only by ferry. C. J. Reed, in common with other saga- 
cious business men, predicted that East Portland was destined to 
grow with the city, and he talked about the wisdom of inve.sting 
in its real estate; but he would not have thought of living there. 

The principal stores and office buildings— some of them six 
and seven stories high— were crowded together on the west side 
of the river. John Reed could not help noticing that most of 
them bore the names of his playmates— Ladd, Failing, Corbett. 
To the north, towards the junction of the Willamette and the 
Columbia, were the grain elevators and the store houses, sym- 
bols of the commerce that had given Portland its fifty thousand 
inhabitants. To the south were the lumber mills and the woolen 
factories and, the other industries that were beginning to change 
the nature of the city. Often John Reed heard his father talk 
about these businesses and about the great railroads and their 
makers, Henry Villard, E. H. Harriman, and, as time went on, 
James J, Hill. Not everything that C. J. Reed said about these 
men and their local associates— W. S. Ladd, Simeon Reed, and 
the others— was flattering, but liis pride in Portland was unntis- 

If John Reed wanted to go from the apartment hotel in which 
he spent part of his boyhood to his grandmother’s mansion, he 
walked up from the river-bank towards the fir-clad hills on the 
western horizon. From the narrow streets and the low, compact 
buildings, he mounted to the region of churches and middle-class 
homes. Portland was proud of its churches, dozens of them, rep- 
resenting almost every denomination in the country. Churches, 


schools, hospitals— the marks of the culture the city coveted. 
And at last Reed would come to the West End, where some of 
the wealthy lived in decorous Queen Anne houses, and above 
them all his grandmother’s house. 

Now, looking back, he gazed over the city to Mount Hood, 
Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams, their white peaks always 
dominating the city on the east and the north. The whole city 
spread before him, neat roofs, green lawns, proud spires, sloping 
down to the curving river. And to the north there was the Co- 
lumbia, bearing the boats of the Pacific trade. It was a beautiful 
city, though it touched John Reed’s imagination far less than 
other cities he was to know. 

His mother and father sent liim and his brother to the Port- 
land Academy, a private school with a good reputation. For the 
first two or three years school excited him, for he seemed to be 
learning so much that he had wanted to know, but then it grew 
dull, and thereafter only an unusual subject or a rare teacher 
aroused John Reed’s interest. He was bright enough to pass, but 
he would not be bothered to get good marks. Later on he mar- 
veled that he had tolerated the dull routine of the educational 
system as well as he had. “Why should I have been interested in 
the stupid education of our time?” he asked. “We take young, 
soaring imaginations, consumed with curiosity about the life 
they sec all around, and feed them with dead technique: the 
flawless purity of Washington, Lincoln’s humdrum chivalry, 
our dull and virtuous history and England’s honest glory; Addi- 
son’s graceful style as an essayist. Goldsmith celebrating the 
rural clergy of the eighteenth century. Dr. Johnson at his most 
vapid, and George Eliot’s Silas Mamer; Macauley and the sono- 
rous oratings of Edmund Burke; and in Latin, Caeser’s Gallic 
guide-book and Cicero’s mouthings about Roman politics. And 
the teachers! Men and women— usually women— whose chief 
qualification is that they can plough steadily through a dull 
round of dates, acts, half-truths, and rules for style, without ques- 
tioning, without interpreting, and without seeing how ridicu- 
lously unlike the world their teachings are. I have forgotten most 
of it, forced on me before I was ready; what I do know came 
mostly from books I had the curiosity to read outside school 



hours. And many fine things I have had to force myself to ex- 
plore again because school once spoiled them for me.” 

In those early years Reed was small for his age and not alto- 
gether well, and he could not take an effective part in the games 
that went on around the school. He had neither the physical 
equipment nor the temperament for organized sports. But when 
he could make his own rules, he was a good companion, and he 
often led his schoolmates in fighting Indians or hunting bears in 
the woods back of town. The more scope a game gave to his 
imagination, the better he liked it, and his imagination was auda- 
cious. After his first reading of Roman history, he was inspired 
to give a banquet in the imperial manner. Arranging couches 
about the table, he invited his friends to recline and eat. The 
Chinese cook had given place by now to a Negro, and Reed, 
clapping his hands, called, “Ho, slave, bring on the repast!” Out- 
raged, the cook gave notice and left. 

The summer that he was ten, his mother took him and his 
brother to the East. The Osbornes had sold their business to the 
International Harvester Company, and for a time the Reeds had 
very little money, but C. J. Reed had established himself in the 
insurance business, and once more they were people of means. 
Mrs. Reed wanted the boys to know their grandfather and 
grandmother Reed, and to meet the Jones and Wilmerding cous- 
ins. And after the round of visits had been made, she took them 
to Plymouth for a month at the seashore. They went on to 
Washington, and were there when the Maim was blown up. 
Soon Uncle Ray was off for the Philippines, and came back with 
a fine new story about how he had been made King of Guam. 

The trip to the East set a date that stood out in the timeless- 
ness of childhood memories, but John Reed had another reason 
for remembering his eleventh year. He had never been very 
well, and now he began to speak of a severe pain in his left side. 
The doctor traced the trouble to the kidney, but could find no 
cure. For the next six years Reed was periodically visited by 
attacks of the pain, and often he was kept in bed for a week or 
two at a time. His mother’s friends spoke of him as a delicate 

At school it was generally recognized that he was brilliant but 


lilcely to be difficult. In the last year of the lower division of the 
academy he came under Miss Addison Jewell, most illustrious 
and most feared of its teachers. Piqued by her reputation as a 
disciplinarian, he refused to study, refused to pay attention, re- 
fused to keep order. Knowing that he was the brightest student 
in the class, she cajoled, commanded, and disciplined, but with 
no result. One morning Harry, who was deeply concerned by 
his brother’s behavior, came to school without him. Questioned, 
he reported that Jack had said to him, “Don’t disturb me; I’m 
composing a melodrama.” Jack found ways of bothering Miss 
Jewell: one day, when some point about civics was raised, and 
he was called upon to recite, he used as illustration his grand- 
mother’s smuggling of silks from Japan. Miss Jewell, despairing 
of overcoming his hostility, had no choice but to give him the 
low grades he deserved. Pie took them with indifference. Then 
one day a visiting authority on education announced to the class 
that he had a new kind of test, one that actually tested intelli- 
gence. Miss Jewell noticed that Jack’s eyes were shining, as he 
wrote furiously. This was his opportunity for revenge, and he 
took it. 

Gradually he found it easier and easier to get on with his 
fellow-students. He seldom took part in baseball or football, but 
he excelled in swimming. All summer long he would go to the 
beach in the Willamette River, swimming farther than any other 
boy, diving from greater heights, doing tricks they could not 
do. But what made it easier for him to mingle with his associates 
was that physical prowess no longer seemed all-important. He 
and Harry built a theatre in their attic, and there were always a 
few boys who were willing to come and take part in the plays 
that Jack composed. He was business manager as well as play- 
wright and producer, carefully calculating the profits of the 
enterprise. The parents of the actors attended, often with their 
friends. Once a man came who was professionally interested in 
the theatre, and he suggested that the plays and the actors were 
amusing enough for public performances. The boys were ex- 
cited by the prospect of making a fortune, and their fathers 
and mothers had trouble in dissuading them. 

Much of the time Jack did not care whether he had playmates 


or not. He could always read, and he read everything he could 
find, from Marie Corelli to Scott, Stevenson, and Sir Thomas 
MaUory. Reading and writing were occupation enough. From 
the age of nine he had been determined to be a writer, and he 
never wanted to be anything else. Nothing interested him so 
much as the editing of newspapers; at fourteen or fifteen he had 
theories of publishing, financing, and advertising. He began to 
write poetry, and to look up to Colonel Charles Erskine Scott 
Wood, with whose sons he played, because Wood was a poet. 

All this, though he seemed to get on well enough with his 
schoolmates, set him apart from them. “I wasn’t much good at 
the things other boys were,” he explained, “and their codes of 
honor and conduct didn’t hold me. They felt it, too, and had a 
sort of good-natured contempt for me. I was neither one thing 
nor the other, neither altogether coward nor brave, neither 
manly nor sissified, neither ashamed nor unashamed. I think that 
is why my impression of my boyhood is an unhappy one, and 
why I have so few close friends in Portland, and why I don’t 
want ever again to live there.” 

“I was a good deal of a physical coward,” he wrote, “I would 
sneak out over the back fence to avoid boys who were ‘laying’ 
for me or who I thought were ‘laying’ for me. Sometimes I 
fought, when I couldn’t help myself, and sometimes even won; 
but I preferred to be called a coward than fight. My imagination 
conjured up horrible things that would happen to me, and I 
simply ran away. One time, when I was on the editorial board 
of the school paper, a boy I was afraid of warned me not to 
publish a joking paragraph I had written about him— and I didn’t. 
My way to school lay through a sort of slum district called 
‘Goose Hollow,’ peopled with brutal Irish boys, many of whom 
grew up to be prize-fighters and baseball stars. I was literally 
frightened out of my senses when I went through Goose Hol- 
low. Once a Goose Hollowite made me promise to give him a 
nickel if he didn’t hit me, and walked up to my house with me 
whUe I got it for him. The strange thing was that when I was 
cornered, and fought, even a licking wasn’t a hundredth time as 
bad as I thc^ht it would be; but I never learned anything from 


that— the next time I ran away Just the same, and suffered the 
most ghastly pangs of fear.” 

Often he felt that his mother and father must be ashamed of 
him. Neither was opposed to his reading and writing, and his 
mother rather rejoiced in his quietness, but both of them wanted 
him to be a leader, and his father had only contempt for a cow- 
ard. John Reed, more intimate with his parents than were most 
boys of his generation, was sensitive to their opinions. They 
rarely coerced him in any way, and the friendhness and grati- 
tude that he felt towards them made him eager to justify their 
hopes. He would have liked to be the self-assured, fearless boy 
that his father wanted him to be, and the gracious, respected 
young gentleman that was his mother’s ideal, and it grieved him 
to fall so far below their expectations. 

Almost certainly John Reed exaggerated the disappointment of 
his parents and the disapproval of his fellows. His mother and 
father were proud of his achievements, and it was easy— and 
not far wrong— to attribute his shortcomings to his bad health. 
His schoolmates noticed, of course, that his tastes were not al- 
ways theirs. When Mr. Ladd gathered a group of boys to go 
hunting, John Reed was not likely to be among them. Colonel 
Wood’s sons discovered that Jack was happier talking with their 
father than he was playing football with them. Sometimes when 
he did join in some game, he would quietly walk off in the very 
midst of it, and no one could tell whether he was in pain or 
merely bored. The boys knew that he was different from them, 
certainly, but they attached less importance to the fact than he 

As he grew into his teens, curiosity and high spirits often over- 
came timidity. The vivid interest in places and people that was 
to dominate his life sent him into every corner of the city. Be- 
neath the surface of respectable business enterprise, he found 
that some of the turbulence of frontier days remained. One did 
not have to go far from Portland to see cow-punchers and pros- 
pectors, and there was always the romance of lumbermen in 
their spiked boots, brakemen walking swaying freight trains, 
and rangers fighting forest fires. Chinatown still fascinated him. 


and he loved to lead a crowd of whooping boys through the red- 
''light district. Occasionally his father took him to tlie ocean, and 
the blazing sunsets over the Pacific set him to writing verses. 
Sometimes they went to the mountains, and, hearing the wail of 
a cougar, he imagined himself back in the pioneering days of his 

The summer that he was fifteen he and four other boys went 
on a camping trip, and Reed, competing for a prize offered by a 
local newspaper, wrote an account of the expedition. If one can 
judge from this, he not only seemed more normal than he 
thought himself but actually was a good deal like other boys. 
"On Tuesday, June 24, 1903,” the essay begins, “five boys. Cliff, 
Sox, Bates, Pat, and myself, to use their popular names, set out 
on a camping trip. Cliff had a sailboat, and we had determined 
to go camping somewhere along the Willamette with the boat 
to carry our provisions and other equipment. Our parents’ per- 
mission having been secured, we embarked on Tuesday morning 
at half-past nine from Portland. We were a tough-looking 
crowd. Cliff wearing a soft felt sombrero, a blue cotton shirt 
with an old bandana knotted around his neck, and old trousers, 
with a revolver in his hind pocket and a murderous-looking 
bowie-knife hanging from his cartridge-belt. . . . For equipment 
we carried a canvas wagon-sheet for a tent, five rolls of blankets, 
six valises of duds, and provisions enough to last us about a day, 
with a frying pan, sauce pan, lard can, and three coffee pots, 
because Cliff, Sox, and Pat drank coffee. Bates cocoa, and I 
cereal coffee.” 

The wind died down soon after they started, and they had to 
take turns paddling with the only oar on board. “This work,” 
he observed, “soon made us cross and sulky, and when we had 
eaten our lunch we went in swimming from the boat.” “Much 
refreshed,” they went on until they came to an island, about 
twelve miles from Portland and two miles from Oregon City. 
Here they pitched their camp, which they christened, “with 
three rousing cheers,” High Five’s Camp. After dinner, they “sat 
around the camp-fire and sang and told stories until way into 
the night.” 

They spent more than a week, exploring the island, shooting 



at rabbits and grouse, swimming, fishing, and sailing on the river. 
Twice they had to go to Oregon City for provisions. There was 
one day when “the rain came down like everything,” and they 
stayed in bed, playing cards, eating cold meals, and trying to 
keep dry. Two of the boys had to leave the first of the follow- 
ing week. On the Wednesday after they left, the other three 
went sailing. “There was a very high wind, almost like a gale,” 
Reed wrote, “and we expected any moment to be tipped over. 
As it was, when I was pulling at the center-board rope, it broke, 
and I hurt my back against the side of the cock-pit.” 

The next day his back pained him and he felt sick to his stom- 
ach. His mother arrived, a day earlier than she had been ex- 
pected, and he was glad to see her. “She said right away that she 
thought the river water which we drank had made me ill, be- 
cause the river was going down, and she said I had to go right 
home, which I did. . . . And thus ended the memorable outing 
of the High Five’s Camp. The cost of this expedition, besides of 
course what we took from our homes, was between $8.50 and 


The following autumn Reed entered his last year at Portland 
Academy. His family had decided that the two final years of 
college preparation should be spent in the East, and already they 
were studying the catalogs of the various schools. In the course 
of the year, apparently as a result of a diet that had been ordered 
for him, the attacks of pain in his left side ceased, and for the 
next ten years his kidney gave him no trouble. He felt stronger 
than he ever had before. The restless energy that drove him for 
the remainder of his life welled up within him, and, without losing 
his interest in books and in writing, he began to crave more 
active forms of expression and a more vigorous part in the life 
of his contemporaries. But the habits Portland had formed and 
the attitudes of others towards him could not easily be changed. 
It was in a different world, among new friends, that John Reed, 
the leader, fighter, playboy, would be born. 

The change would be great, but the influence of the seventeen 
Portland years would persist. Memory of past cowardice would 
always encourage recklessness in defying danger. Independence 
would become his highest ideal because he had known too well 


the protecting care of a devoted mother. He would demand not 
merely power but also recognition because for so long he had 
felt cast out and scorned. 

His boyhood, however, would shape his manhood positively 
as well as negatively. He would always be romantic, eager for 
the unknown, chivalrous and even quixotic. He would always be 
sensitive, feeling the suffering of others and easy to hurt. That 
sensitiveness he would try to conceal, succeeding well enough so 
that many would think him ruthless, but it would endure and 
be potent in molding his life. With sensitiveness went sympathy. 
No amount of recognition could make him forget the unhappi- 
ness of failure or alter his conviction that success came at the 
hands of fortune to the very few. He would never be in danger 
of complacence, nor would egotism harden into callousness. 

He was potentially a poet. It was not merely that he had 
romantic dreams and had learned to play with words. There 
was a kind of smgleness in his nature, despite all its many con- 
tradictions. Thought, feeling, and action were fused in him. He 
went from experience to experience, seizing what belonged to 
him and eventually rejecting all else. Of conscious purpose he 
had little, but he acted without hesitation, obeying impulse with 
a loyalty that might temporarily lead him into folly but was 
nevertheless wise. 

So, in the winter of 1904, he went about the streets of Port- 
land, a nice-looking boy, grown tall now, well-dressed, orderly 
except for his hair. His face was taking shape, rather long, the 
upper half of it uncommonly symmetrical: a good broad fore- 
head; greenish brown eyes, well set, by turns friendly, curious, 
and intense, with a little scar, the result of a swimming accident, 
in the corner of one of them; an even, intelligent nose. Sym- 
metiy vanished, however, below the nose: the mouth was large 
and irregular, and the heavy chin did not belong to the rest of 
the face. But at sixteen, before his cheeks filled out, it was the 
delicate eyes and forehead one noticed, and the boy seemed 
singularly handsome. 

Everybody knew him. The son of C. J. Reed, the famous wit; 
C. J. Reed, the insurance man who was always talking about 
Teddy Roosevelt and saying too much about trust-busting for 



his own good. The son of Margaret Reed, one of Portland’s 
accomplished hostesses, a favorite at teas and card parties. The 
grandson of old Mrs. Green, who still gave hilarious dances and 
was always traveling about the world. Everybody knew him, 
and knew he was going away to school. Good Portlanders al- 
ways sent their children east for their education. 

All through his last year in Portland, John Reed looked for- 
ward to the time when he would be leaving. Not that he disliked 
the city or was acutely unhappy; but he had a sense that life 
would begin when he got away from it. In spite of the failures 
he could not ignore, his adolescent sense of glory to come was 
strong, and he was impatient for something to happen. After 
seventeen years of marking time he wanted to march. 



C J. Reed, who had seen his schoolboy friends go away to 
college and been unhappy because he could not join 
• them, was determined not only that his sons should be 
educated at Harvard but that they should enter college with the 
prestige that a respectable preparatory school could give. Mor- 
ristown, in New Jersey, which he and Mrs. Reed selected, was 
a school of fifty or sixty students, rather expensive and a little 
pretentious. Founded under Episcopalian auspices, it had subse- 
quently been taken over by three young Harvard men, class of 
1888, Butler, Woodman, and Browne. For the most part, only 
boys from well-to-do families came there, boys with strong opin- 
ions about micks and rowdies and high school students. 

Jack Reed, tense with curiosity and the zeal for achievement, 
caught at once the atmosphere of the place. “The ordered life 
of the community interested me,” he afterwards wrote; “I was 
impressed by its traditional customs and dignities, school patri- 
otism, and the sense of a long-settled and established civilization.” 
He might have been too much impressed. By no means sure of 
himself with boys of his own age, even in his native Portland, he 
could easily have withdrawn in solitary consciousness of his in- 
feriority to the stolid complacence of eastern breeding. The 
boys were not uncommonly brilliant in studies or gifted in 
sports, but they belonged together, and Reed had always hated 
to be an outsider. 

What saved him was the seething energy that good health had 
released. He was so driven to action that he could not stop to 
distrust himself. The first day of football practice found him 




on the field, plunging about with a kind of inept but irresistible 
fury. The coach laughed at the gawky boy— he was almost six 
feet tall and weighed only one hundred and thirty-four pounds 
—but commended him. The other players were too concerned 
with their own difficulties to pay much attention to the new- 
comer. Reed suddenly discovered that he could play football 
and that he wasn’t afraid of being hurt. Before the first game, 
he was regularly playing at left guard, and he took part in aU 
seven of the team’s games with other small schools. “Reed, L. 
G.,” wrote the critic in the Morristonim, “has played for the 
first time, and has made great progress in knowledge of the 
game. He is a good tackier, runs well with the ball . . . and 
ought to make a fast man. He is a little slow in starting, but can 
easily remedy that fault.” Reed marked the paragraph when he 
sent the paper home to his mother. 

The happiness that he felt in the rough physical combat of 
the game and the recognition that came with his mild success 
gave John Reed all that he needed to become not merely one of 
the Morristown boys but a leader. In the compact little life of a 
small, isolated school, it took him only a few weeks to win the 
respect, whole-hearted or grudging, of the sixty boys. When 
a few of them gathered in some one’s room, it was Jack Reed 
who uttered the boldest, most crushing arguments in the discus- 
sions of sex, religion, and politics. It was Jack Reed, too, who 
could tell the most spectacular stories, building fantasies around 
the Green chateau, describing raids into forbidden streets, imi- 
tating Indian war-whoops and the cries of a wounded cougar. 

His ingenuity and fearlessness in mischief added to his reputa- 
tion. There was nothing particular to do in the village of Morris- 
town, a mile or two away, but, because pupils were permitted 
to go there only on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, he or- 
ganized expeditions that left the dormitories, after the retiring 
hour, by fire escapes and ropes, and returned before dawn in the 
same clandestine way. More exciting were the secret visits to 
country dances. There would be the smirking surprise that went 
around the hall when the three or four boys, whom the dancers 
immediately identified as aliens from the school, swaggered in, 


and then the supreme audacity of walking up, before resentful 
eyes, and asking some girl to dance. 

“His powers as a boy,” one of the three masters remembers, 
“were turned too much toward mischief and disorder. He was a 
difficult and rather disturbing influence in the school.” “He was 
free from ordinary restraints,” says another, “but was amiable 
and had no serious disciplinary trouble.” There was one time, it 
is true, when he offended against Morristonian canons of good 
taste. An entertainment was going on to which only members 
of the sixth form and their guests were invited. Between the first 
and second floors of the main building stood a suit of armor, and 
on its helmet Reed set a chamber pot— in full sight of the women 
guests. He was put on bounds, lost all privileges, and was de- 
prived of his room in the Harvard dormitory and given an al- 
cove in the Columbia dormitory under the charge of the teacher 
he lilted least. 

Football and mischief were all very well, but Reed could 
never be happy long unless he was writing. The school had a 
monthly magazine, the Morristonian, to which he immediately 
contributed. He wanted nothing less, however, than a magazine 
of his own. The school had once had a comic paper, suppressed 
because its humor was too personal. Reed revived it, a thin little 
paper, published twice a month, the Rooster. It avoided person- 
alities well enough to survive the year, but that was its principal 
achievement. Twelve issues of dismal schoolboy humor were 
enough, and the paper was not continued the next year. It had 
served its purpose as a vehicle for John Reed’s urgent need not 
so much to create as to organize. 

Creation, such as it was, found outlet in the Morristonian. His 
first contribution was a labored piece of exaggeration, a type of 
humor to which for more than a decade he frequently recurred. 
His other two stories were purely romantic, one of them the 
story of the destruction of Atlantis. His verse, no more original 
than could have been' expected, tried to say what was going on 
within him, that private life of surging hope, vague desire, occa- 
sional despair, that persisted underneath the agitated public life 
of schoolboy activity. He strove to be literary in describing a 
storm and ended: 



An atom in this world of might and nig ht 
I stand alone. 

He wrote of a violin: 

Sobbing through the still night places, 

Like a little child a-weeping, 

Singing happily, and laughing, 

Laughter like the bells of silver 
Which are rung in Paradise. 

Then it dies away and leaves us 
Something wanting in the night. 

The year went by. He spoke on behalf of Alton B. Parker in 
a mock election campaign. His mother visited the school. He 
went home with a classmate, Frank Damrosch, for Thanksgiving 
Day. In the spring he was elected to the board of the Morristo- 
nim, made vice-president of the athletic association, chosen man- 
ager of the football team. He won the Scribner prize for the best 
historical thesis. He began to call on girls in the town and to 
think of himself as a “fusser.” “Busy, happy, with lots of friends 
I expanded into self-confidence. Without trying I found myself; 
and since then I have never been very much afraid of men.” 

When he returned to Portland, he found his father entering 
upon his duties as United States Marshal. The appointment had 
come in a strange way. Several years earlier, Ethan Hitchcock, 
Secretary of the Interior, had come to suspect the existence of 
land frauds in the West. A preliminary investigation by William 
J. Burns showed that the public land in Washington, Oregon, 
and California was being seized by lumber companies and rail- 
road interests. To be granted a section of public land, a claimant 
swore that he had occupied the land for five years and had im- 
proved it. A ring of politicians, with the aid of government offi- 
cials, including the Commissioner of the Land Office himself, had 
systematically falsified the records and taken the land. Lumber 
interests, railroads, and insurance companies were all involved. 

Francis J. Heney, who had fought graft in Arizona, was made 
special prosecutor. When he went to Portland, he called on C. J. 

20 , 


Reed, whom he had known in the Bohemian Club in San Fran- 
cisco. Mr. Reed, with a kind of good-natured cynicism, took 
him around the city, introducing him to the leading men and 
letting him learn what he could from their gossip. FIcney soon 
realized that the lumber companies controlled the land office, the 
senators and representatives, and even the federal judges. Al- 
though his first cases were against men and women with criminal 
records, respectable citizens of Portland came to him and tact- 
fully suggested that conviction would be unwise. The frauds 
affected the politics and business of the entire state, and FIcney 
saw that he would have to fight the good men as well as the bad. 

One of the principal obstacles to Fleney’s success was Jack 
Matthews, United States Marshal and Republican boss of Port- 
land. Matthews, in impaneling juries and in whatever other ways 
were possible, obstructed Heney’s course. Heney appealed to 
Roosevelt, and Matthews was ousted. When Heney asked C. J. 
Reed to take his place, Reed could scarcely believe he was seri- 
ous, but Heney argued, and Reed caught fire. Fie had always 
been shocked by the calm predacity of his associates, but he had 
been satisfied to make the discrepancies between pretense and 
practice the butt of his wit. Now cynicism vanished, and he be- 
came a crusader. 

It was a new experience to John Reed to find his father so full 
of conviction and passion, and he responded to the air of excite- 
ment that swept through the house. He loved to go to the office 
and see his father poking fun at William J. Burns’ solemn hawk- 
shaw manners or talking strategy with Frank Heney. C. J.’s en- 
thusiasm entered the boy, who began to talk hotly of busting 
trasts and jailing grafters. But the impression that lasted longest 
was of his father’s fearlessness, for there was actual physical dan- 
.ger in this crusade and there was the intense pressure of respect- 
able opinion. The Arlington Club elected a new president, and 
some of its members would not speak to the man they had so 
often applauded. As the prosecution went on, reaching a United 
States Senator, touchmg the Northern Pacific Railroad and the 
Southern, leading to the death in New York of the president of 
an insurance company, Portland saw Frank Heney as an enemy 


of society and C. J. Reed as a traitor. And all the time the man 
grew bolder, stronger in his convictions, sharper in his wit. 

John Reed went back to Morristown with a new admiration 
and a new friendship for his father, and with even greater confi- 
dence in himself. He had been chosen to the committee of seven, 
a harmless concession to the theory of student democracy. He 
was manager of the football team as well as a player. The boys 
called him Rooster and Farmer, the first because of the now 
defunct paper, the second because of his gangling body, his 
round, unfirm face, and his unkempt hair. The masters found 
him more troublesome than ever, for defiance of discipline had 
become instinctive. For two months he was removed from the 
school committee, and later he was made to resign from the edi- 
torial board of the Morristonim. The latter action brought an 
indignant, self-righteous petition from Reed and Damrosch, his 
fellow-offender, and they were restored to the board. 

His own experience and his admiration for his father strength- 
ened his belief that concessions were wrong, that he must always 
do exactly what he wanted and say exactly what he thought. 
He would win recognition, but only on his own terms. He 
began to associate with an older boy in his class, a southerner 
who subsequently flunked out. Reed liked the boy because he 
was so completely honest, and he made up his mind to emulate 
his candor. They went to New York together for a weekend, 
fabricating some sort of excuse. “I’m going to get a girl,” his 
friend said, and he did, and brought her to his room and slept 
with her. Reed, though not quite ready to emulate him, admixed 
his audacity. And when they were coming home, crossing on the 
ferry to take the Morristown train, the boy said, “I feel good. I 
feel like singing.” So he sang, sitting on the rail, paying no atten- 
tion to the passengers who gaped at him. Candor, audacity, un- 
self-consciousness— Reed placed them at the top of his hierarchy 
of virtues. 

Candor and audacity he could cultivate and the appearance of 
un-self -consciousness, but he was too complex a person to be en- 
tirely free from awareness of what other people were thinking 
about him. Fie became, instead, something of an actor, casting 
himself in roles that he admired. And all the time he led an in- 



tense emotional life that he revealed to no one except insofar as 
he clumsily hinted at it in his poetry. The growth of strong sex- 
ual impulses fostered his romanticism, and each girl that inter- 
ested him was a Guinevere or an Elaine. Though he craved 
every form of eminence, he was at heart convinced that he was 
to be a great poet, for he thought of himself, in spite of all his 
activity, as a dreamer. There was a strange experience one Sat- 
urday afternoon, when, in the midst of a game, he looked up 
and for a moment believed he saw a vision of Galahad and the 
Holy Grail. Ele remained the romantic boy whose early years 
had been so much a matter of solitary dreaming. His new confi- 
dence in himself was expressed in warm-hearted sociability and 
constant action, but he continued to dream. 

He did not know how to convey the intensity of his feelings, 
even if he had been willing to attempt it. He was prolific, how- 
ever, in his writing. He liked the spectacular; one of his stories 
in the Mormtonim, “The End of the World,” closes with New 
York City falling into a pit and the prophet from the desert, 
who had announced the disaster, leaping in after it. Of his verses 
none has more than personal significance, and only two or three 
have that. There is a poem called “Twilight” that suggests a 
nostalgia for the West: 

That wind has stirred the mighty pines 
That cling along Mt. Shasta’s side 
Has hurled the broad Pacific surf 
Against the rocks of Tillamook; 

And o’er the snow-fields of Mt. Hood 
Has caught the bitter cold and roared 
Across the prairies, piling high 
The huge white drifts of swirling snow. 

And yet, although the bitter wind 
Bites deep into my shrinking flesh, 

I seem to see against the sky 
The mountains of the white cascades; 
And grandly through the mighty range 
The vast Columbia flowed down 
Unto the sea forevermore. 



There is also a rather extraordinary poem to Tennyson: 

Singer of the kingly Arthur, 

Deathless song which cannot die. 

To thy truth I’d fall a martyr, 

Truth from lips that will not lie. 

Give to me thine inspiration, 

Let thy soul my soul immerse 

Till through sweetest meditation 
I can sing my soul in verse. 

He was not very different from other prep school boys. Like 
most pre-college students who have any literary inclinations at 
all, he wrote in imitation of the author he had most recently 
read and was capable of the most naive enthusiasms. He was be- 
low the average as a scholar, and he barely passed his entrance 
examinations to Elarvard. In athletics he was only fairly good, 
thougli he won his letter two years in football and one year in 
track. He made the nrasters miserable with his tricks, but he was 
neither an incorrigibly bad boy nor a thoughtful rebel. 

Yet Reed is remembered by the masters of Morristown School 
and by the boys who were there with him, more than thirty 
years ago. A tremendous explosive energy was released on that 
stodgy little campus, and, though it accomplished nothing, it left 
its mark. Reed made himself felt as a force. And he succeeded, 
even then, in dividing his associates into two camps, those who 
loved him and those who hated him. Thirty years later two men 
who were in the class below Reed’s wrote about him. “He 
seemed to delight,” said one of them, “in showing his authority 
over the new boys. I happened to be a new boy and I suppose 
that may have prejudiced me.” “At that time there was a certain 
amount of hazing in the school,” said the other, “and I remem- 
ber Jack particularly because he was especially friendly to me 
as a new boy and refused to take part in any of the hazing ac- 
tivities.” Whether he bullied the new boys or not, they did not 
forget him. 


“Pain of Growing, Ecstasy of Unfolding” 

I N September, 1906, John Reed entered Harvard. Harvard, 
Cambridge, Boston were romantic names to the boy from 
Oregon. There was the Yard, open and spacious, laid out 
with elm-shaded paths. There were the old halls, built a century 
and more ago, Massachusetts, Harvard, Hollis, Stoughton. There 
was Bulfinch’s administration building, University Hall. There 
were Sever and Emerson, where classes met. There were Gore 
Hall and the squat-spired, incongruous little chapel. This was the 
Yard, the old, the essential Harvard. To the north were mu- 
seums, the gymnasium, the law and divinity schools; to the 
south, one block away, on Mt. Auburn Street, the private dormi- 
tories, the Gold Coast. 

This, Reed confidently believed, was to be the scene of his 
new triumphs. In his good-natured, casual way he was ambitious, 
wanted the best that Harvard ofFered, and could see no reason 
why he should not have it. After the conquest of Morristown, 
the conquest of Harvard seemed inevitable. There was nothing, 
certainly, that he was afraid to try. A day or two after college 
opened, he walked up to Bob Hallowell. “I hear that you draw,” 
he said. “Why don’t we do a book about Harvard? I’ll do the 
text and you do the pictures.” 

“But,” Hallowell objected, “we don’t know anything about 
the place.” 

“Hell,” Reed replied, “we’ll find out doing the thing!” 

It was only one of thousands of ideas that momentarily swept 
Reed off his feet and then came to nothing. If, however, he had 
set out to discover what kind of institution it was in which he 




planned to spend four years, he might have understood why its 
conquest was not going to be easy and why, to the end, his vic- 
tory would be equivocal. 

Harvard was the oldest, largest, richest, and by general con- 
sent the greatest university in the United States. The man who 
had presided over it during its rise to greatness was Charles W. 
Eliot, who was seventy-two when Reed entered college and who 
retired before he graduated. During the forty years that he was 
president Harvard changed from a provincial college with 
barely a thousand students to an internationally famous univer- 
sity with a faculty of more than five hundred, an undergraduate 
body of more than two thousand, and a graduate enrollment in 
its half-dozen professional schools of sixteen hundred. Its en- 
dowment increased from two million to twenty-two, and its 
annual expenses from a quarter of a million to two million and 
a half. 

Charles W. Eliot was not a minister, and to that extent his 
appointment in 1869 was revolutionary. Ele was a chemist. But 
he was also a Boston Eliot. His paternal grandfather, a merchant, 
was probably the richest man in Boston when he died in 1820. 
His mother’s father had made a considerable fortune in the 
northwestern fur and East India trades, a fortune augmented by 
investment in the infant textile industry. His father, thus en- 
dowed, had devoted himself to public service, first as Mayor of 
Boston and Congressman from Massachusetts, then as philan- 
thropist. The family fortune was materially diminished by dis- 
astrous investment in 1857, but the family position was never 
threatened. At a time when his academic future seemed dubious, 
EUot seriously considered becoming superintendent of the Mer- 
rimack Company’s textile mills. There were always opportunities 
for an Eliot. 

Eliot was a democrat and a liberal. He spoke cordially to gar- 
bage collectors and brusquely to ambassadors. He never con- 
sciously bowed down before wealth, and he honestly believed 
that America was a land of opportunity. He criticized trade 
unionism because it restricted individual freedom; a scab might, 
he said, be a hero. He favored segregation for Negroes, but he 
desired equal treatment, in their separate compartments, for black 


and white. The processes of colonial expansion should be hu- 
mane and educational. He was carefully fair-minded, graciously 
tolerant, and he preserved intact the prejudices of his Beacon 
Street birthplace. 

President Eliot brought to Cambridge some of the finest minds 
in America. There were James, Royce, Santayana, and Palmer 
in philosophy; Miinsterberg in psychology; Kittredgc, Neilson, 
Wendell, and Baker in English; Channing and Hart in history; 
Taussig in economics. Since the undergraduate, once he had 
passed the required freshman course in English and had satisfied 
the authorities that he had a reading knowledge of French and 
German, was free to take any courses that suited Iris fancy, he 
could, if he chose and if other considerations such as convenient 
hours and reputations for leniency did not weigh too heavily 
with him, listen to men who had no superiors in America. 

John Reed could have learned all this; indeed, in a vague way 
he knew it already. He knew what Eliot stood for, and he ap- 
proved. The liberalism of Charles W. Eliot was the creed in 
which C. J. Reed had been raised, though at the moment he was 
engaged in belligerent enforcement rather than abstract affirma- 
tion of middle-class rights. John Reed would not even have ob- 
jected to the fact that the Corporation, the governing body of 
Harvard University, was dominated by Henry Lee Higginson, 
Boston’s leading financier and patron of the arts. It was only the 
predatory business men, the malefactors of great wealth, as C. 
J. Reed’s new idol called them, that the Reeds condemned. They 
believed in business itself, in competition, in capitalism. 

In fact, the way in which the university was run must have 
seemed so natural and so unimportant to John Reed that, if lie 
had written about Harvard, he would not have bothered to 
mention it. He was impressed when Eliot told the class of 1910 
that the purpose of the university “is to allow each man to think 
and do as he pleases, and the tendency is to allow this more and 
more.” And when Eliot asked the freshmen if they were afraid 
of this liberty, Reed could have answered with a ring ing “No!” 
That was all that really concerned him: he was free to t hink and 
do as he pleased, and he did not care to whom he owed the 



Much more interesting to him than the official administration 
of the university was the world of the college undergraduates. 
So far as John Reed was concerned, the great men Eliot had 
brought to Harvard and the millions of dollars he had added to 
its endowment were simply a background for the exploits of 
some two thousand young men like himself. What he did not 
realize, in those early days when he made his audacious proposal 
to Hallowell, was that the undergraduate world was quite as 
complicated as the world of academic officialdom, and just as 
alien from anything he had ever known. He saw scores of op- 
portunity for achievement: the various sports, the managerships 
of the various sports, the magazines, and all the clubs. He did 
not see that Harvard had its own ways of judging fitness for the 
prizes of its little world. Morristown had taught him more about 
class distinctions and social hierarchies than he had known in 
Portland, but it had also convinced him that they were only of 
secondary importance. Harvard was to teach him how important 
they could be. 

As SOON as hLs first ebullience had died away, he found that he 
was extraordinarily lonely. “In 1906,” he afterwards wrote, “I 
went up to Harvard almost alone, knowing hardly a soul in the 
university. My college class entered over seven hundred strong, 
and for the first three months it seemed to me, going around to 
lectures and meetings, as if every one of the seven hundred had 
friends but me. I was thrilled with the immensity of Harvard, its 
infinite opportunities, its august history and traditions— but des- 
perately lonely.” 

Without much thought, he elected Latin, English literature, 
elementary French and German, history, and philosophy. There 
was nothing in the insipid routine of freshman courses to arouse 
his imagination, and he quickly learned how little work was 
necessary to win a passing grade. In the classrooms he made ac- 
quaintances, and perhaps walked with them across the Yard, 
but they never asked him to their rooms, and, indeed, they 
scarcely recognized him if he met them at some undergraduate 
gathering. So many of the men seemed to have been together at 
one of the larger preparatory schools, St. Mark’s or Groton or 



Exeter or Andover. They knew each other, and they knew 
upper-classmen, whose familiarity with college traditions they 
soon absorbed. And they found Reed’s impetuous cordiality a 
little embarrassing. If this man was some one they wanted to 
know, they would soon enough find out; meanwhile he would 
do well not to thrust himself forward. 

Loneliness would have driven Reed to engage in as many 
undergraduate activities as possible, even if ambition had not 
pushed him on. He had to show these fellows. Football, crew, 
managerial positions, the magazines— he went out for them all. 
He was not good enough for the freshman football team, though 
he now weighed twenty pounds more than he had at Morris- 
town, and he was soon eliminated. Disappointed, he began to 
spend more of his time in writing for the magazines. 

The Lampoon, he was excited to discover, accepted his jokes. 
He was not aware that they were as inane as tine jokes he had 
written in abundance for the Rooster; he only rejoiced that they 
found favor with the exacting, if not precisely discriminating, 
young editors. Success with the Lampoon was important to him 
because the magazine represented the essential Harvard, the 
Harvard of the chosen few. It belonged to and defended the 
complacent, self-assured, superior Harvard that vaguely dis- 
tressed John Reed and yet of which he wanted to be a part. If 
his inventiveness did not carry him beyond the classroom ex- 
ploits of a student called “Mr. Grinda,” his work was acceptable 
and was, indeed, on a level with most of the jokes that, stupid 
as they individually were, made the Lampoon a bulwark of the 
Harvardian status quo. 

His work also proved acceptable to the editors of the Harvard 
Monthly, which represented a different Harvard tradition, the 
tradition of serious literary effort. Hermann Hagedorn was edi- 
tor-in-chief Reed’s freshman year, and John Hall Wheelock and 
Lucien Price were on the board. George Santayana, Edwin Ar- 
lington Robinson, M. A. DeWolfe Howe, and William Vaughn 
Moody had written for the Monthly in the past. The Monthly 
affirmed nothing except the right of undergraduates to be as 
mature as they could be. It offered no formal opposition, at least 
in 1906, to the prejudices of the Lampoon, but its values were not 


the Lampoon’s values. It summoned from John Reed the best 
prose he had thus far written— a short, romantic, poetic story 
called “Bacchanal”— and the best poetry, a sonnet, “Guinevere.” 

The fact that he wrote with equal enthusiasm and success for 
both the La?npoon and the Monthly indicates the inner confu- 
sion that made Reed unhappy in his first year at Harvard. Wiser 
men were content with what they could have, and Reed could 
have a literary career. He wanted that, but he wanted more too; 
he wanted popularity, acclaim, the glittering prizes that Harvard 
offered. He thought longingly of his triumphs at Morristown, 
and despaired because he could not immediately duplicate them 
at Harvard. 

In the spring he made a valiant try for a position on the fresh- 
man crew, staying in Cambridge through the vacation to work 
at a rowing machine in the empty boathouse. And when he was 
dropped from the list of candidates, he entered the competition 
for the assistant managership of the varsity crew, working day 
and night to collect subscriptions. When the appointed date 
came, it was found that Reed had easily won, but the manager 
said that Reed was not the right sort of man, and he extended 
the competition, permitting Raymond Belmont to go to New 
York and get his father, a Morgan man, to help him. Belmont 
was given the position. 

Reed experienced other kinds of discrimination. One of the 
social leaders of the class promised to room with him sophomore 
year, and then, warned that Reed was not quite sound, drew 
away from him. And Reed became snobbish himself; “I, too, 
hurt a boy who was my friend.” The boy was a New York Jew, 
“a shy, rather melancholy person,” Reed called him, but a boy 
with a brilliant mind. Reed liked him and learned much from 
him. But he began to reflect: “We were always together, we two 
outsiders. I became irritated and morbid about it— it seemed I 
would never be part of the rich splendor of college hfe with him 
around— so I drew away from him. It hurt him very much, and it 
taught me better.” 

It was a rather troubled, distrustful boy who returned to Ore- 
gon in June. But C. J. Reed, who had himself learned something 



about snobbishness, told him to keep on fighting. And, it became 
clear the next fall, the defeats were less serious than they had 
seemed. He was elected an editor of the Monthly, and, in Feb- 
ruary, of the Lampoon. His old audacity, which even in his de- 
spair he had maintained as a pose, returned in full ebullience. At 
the Monthly’’ s initiation ceremony, when each of the prospec- 
tive editors was required to recite an original poem, Reed sud- 
denly gave voice to a parody of one of the sea poems John Hall 
Wheelock, now editor-in-chief, had written: 

Long have I longed about Longacre Square 
For the sound of the sea and the loud yellow plunk 
Of the breakers beating against the moonlight 
And the desolate horizoned spaces. 

O voiceless, murmurous sea. 

Full of salt water and the great sad crabs. . . . 

Wheelock interrupted, and Reed’s election was unanimously 
confirmed. It was perhaps a greater audacity that led Reed’s 
fellow neophyte and friend, Edward Flunt, to read, on such an 
occasion, a serious and moving poem on death; but that was a 
kind of audacity John Reed had yet to learn. 

Of course there were still defeats. Not satisfied with being on 
two of the magazines, Reed joined the competition for the staff 
of the Crimson, the college daily. Though even then he was a 
good journalist, he was not elected. Such defeats did not come 
because he was socially ineligible. He did not belong to one of 
the best Boston families, nor had he attended St. Mark’s or Gro- 
ton, but he did have behind him some money, a reputable ances- 
try, and two years at an expensive preparatory school. With his 
ability, which nobody doubted, he was precisely the sort of per- 
son that the aristocracy would have been glad to adopt, as two 
years later, it adopted his brother Harry, who knew how to play 
the Harvard game. But there was something in Jack that the 
social leaders feared. He wanted to be accepted, but it had to be 
on his own terms, and his terms simply were not theirs. Much 
as he lonpd to conform, he could not do it. He remained, in 
spite of himself, defiant, belligerent, mocking. When good man- 


ners would have counted most, his manners were the worst he 
could contrive. In dealing with contributors to the Lampoon and 
the Monthly he was rude to men of influence and considerate to 
nonentities. There were times when it seemed to the more sober 
men of his class, men who went their own ways indifferent to 
the aristocrats, that he was bootlicking. There were times, per- 
haps, when he would have been willing to lick boots; but he did 
not know how. 

It was no wonder that he was not elected to any of the clubs 
with social prestige. The complicated club system of Harvard 
remains a mystery to thousands of undergraduates, who spend 
their four years in satisfied unawareness of it, except when, at 
various periods, the men chosen to the Institute go running 
through the Yard in gray pants and blue shirts. Reed, however, 
knew every detail of the club system and described it: “In soph- 
omore year, the Institute of 1770 selects one hundred men from 
the class, presumably fit social material, who thereafter regard 
themselves as the socially elect. The waiting clubs, which are 
final to one another (that is to say, a man can belong only to one 
waiting club) elect a few more, and further refine the original 
hundred. This group of what is supposed to be the best men in 
the class composes the material with which the final clubs fill 
their ranks in junior and senior years.” 

It is a complicated system for the achievement of a simple ob- 
ject. The majority of final club members are men whose families 
have always controlled Plarvard. These men as undergraduates 
dominate, under ordinary circumstances, college activities. After 
they graduate, they supply the university with directors of the 
Alumni Association, Overseers, and members of the Corporation. 
They admit outsiders to their ranks, but only such outsiders as 
they are sure they can assimilate. 

John Reed, not being assimilable, remained outside. Even the 
literary clubs, after his success in the magazines, blackballed him. 
It probably would have done him no harm if he had been taken 
into the clubs, for, once the prizes had been won, he would have 
seen how trivial they were. Nevertheless, as he remarked, “the 
effect of the system on its own members is deadly,” and it per- 
haps was as well that he was not exposed. 


He remained outside the Elarvard of the clubs, and thus he 
was forced to discover another Harvard, the Harvard that was 
undergoing what he later, with pardonable exaggeration, called 
a renaissance. He himself dated the renaissance from an essay 
that Lee Simonson, a hitherto obscm-e member of the class of 
1909, published in the Advocate for January, 1908. “I am an 
outsider,” Simonson said, “as that term is understood in college. 
. . . The particular problems of college activity so often discussed 
in these columns are not vital for me.” He was concerned with 
“the tepidity, the inertia, the listlessness of our life here,” “The 
idea of gentility,” he said, “soothes us like a warm blanket . . . 
For us, life (spelled with a capital) is neither very serious nor 
very urgent. . . . The virtues here are the contented, unassertive 
virtues of middle-age, tact and deference, easy comradeship and 
slipshod kindliness. . . . But there is no effective sign here of the 
boisterous virtues of youth, of those for whom life is tense with 
secret surprises— revolutions, rejuvenations and catastrophes.” 

Simonson did not speak for himself alone, and' within four 
months after his article appeared three new clubs had been 
formed that made some attempt to foster and to express the 
boisterous virtues. With two of these, the Cosmopolitan Club 
and the Dramatic Club, Reed became closely associated. The 
Cosmopolitan Club, the direct outgrowth of President Eliot’s 
liberalism, was a semi-official attempt to facilitate the interna- 
tional exchange of ideas. It might have been almost purely for- 
mal, but, responding to the new insurgency, it encouraged con- 
troversy, and debated executions in Spain, syndicalism in France, 
revolution in China. The Dramatic Club, an indirect product of 
Baker’s course in playwriting, presented original plays by grad- 
uates or undergraduates. In its choice of plays and its methods 
of production it aimed at maturity, intelligence, and vitality. “It 
should be a club,” Simonson said in an article in the Monthly, 
“primarily for the playwright, the enthusiast, the theorist.” 

The third of the new organizations, the Socialist Club, Reed 
did not belong to, though in his senior year he occasionally at- 
tended its meetings. Its stated purpose was “the study of Social- 
ism and all other radical programs of reform which aim at a 
better organic development of society.” Walter Lippmann joined 



it, became its president, gave it influence and prestige in the life 
of the college. Harvard had always believed in philanthropy, 
and there were committees, to one of which T. S. Eliot be- 
longed, for the distribution of clothing to the poor. (“We are 
very systematic about dispensing our shabby clothes,” Simon- 
son had written.) But the Socialist Club made fun of charity. 
It had social legislation introduced into the Massachusetts legis- 
lature; it attacked the university for not paying its servants living 
wages; it led to the formation of a league for woman suffrage, a 
single tax club, an anarchist group; it petitioned the faculty for 
a course in Socialism. “All this,” Reed later wrote, “made no 
ostensible difference in the look of Harvard society, and prob- 
ably the club-men and the athletes, who represented us to the 
world, never even heard of it. But it made me, and many others, 
realize that there was something going on in the dull outside 
world more thrilling than college activities, and turned our at- 
tention to the writings of men like H. G. Wells and Graham 
Wallas, wrenching us away from the Oscar Wildian dilettantism 
which had possessed undergraduate litterateurs for generations.” 

Although he did not as an undergraduate sufficiently recog- 
nize the importance of the Socialist Club to want to join it, and 
though his whole appreciation of the “renaissance” really came 
after graduation, he did feel, when he returned for his junior 
year in the fall of 1908, that he was part of something more im- 
portant than the unimaginative, narrow, showy life of the wait- 
ing and final clubs. He became assistant manager of the Dramatic 
Club, which staged as its first play Allan Davis’ The Promised 
Land. Under the direction of Hans von Kaltenborn, the mana- 
ger, Reed solicited advertisements for the program, raised funds 
from patrons and patronesses, sent publicity to the press, wor- 
ried about properties and scenery, and bulldozed the cast into 
attending rehearsals. It was hard work, but the glamor 6f first 
nights was sufficient reward. 

He was too sure of himself now to care much about the 
aristocrats, though lack of recognition occasionally made him 
uneasy. He joined and later became president of the Western 
Club, an informal organization resulting from the realization 
that men from the West were slow in making friends at Har- 


vard. It was an eating club, and Reed presided at meals, making 
personal jokes, as his father had done at the Arlington Club in 
Portland, and apostrophizing each arrival at the tabic. Once, 
when Walter Lippmann came to the club as a guest, Reed leaped 
to his feet, made a sweeping bow, and cried, “Gentlemen, the 
future President of the United States.” But sometimes his humor 
was on a lower level: once he threw a handful of beans and 
said, “Where have you been?” In fact, a good deal of raucous 
horseplay went on at the Western Club, in more or less con- 
scious defiance of the Harvard that prided itself on having out- 
grown schoolboy tricks. There were practical jokes, sometimes 
of a painful sort, and there were burlesque operas, such as “The 
Girl of the Golden Toothbrush,” of which Reed wrote the 
words and Joe Adams the music. 

Now that he was no longer troubled by failure, he was full 
of an energy that neither his courses nor his undergraduate 
duties could exhaust. “Let’s find some excitement,” was his 
characteristic phrase. He was involved more than once with the 
Boston police, and he occasionally picked a fight with Cam- 
bridge loafers, who were given to jeering at Harvard boys. He 
could find amusement even in a graveyard: one Sunday after- 
noon, when he and Alan Gregg were walking in Mt. Auburn 
cemetery, Reed took out his calling cards, wrote on a dozen or 
more, “Sorry you weren’t in when we called,” and left them at 
the tombs with the most illustrious Boston names. And one mid- 
night he led a group of his classmates through Lexington, shout- 
ing, “The British are coming.” 

In the spring of his junior year he and Joe Adams and W. T. 
Pickering went together to New York. Adams, a delicate, small, 
fair-haired boy from Mason City, Iowa, was one of Reed’s 
closest friends. Though Adams was completely conservative 
and they never agreed, they were constantly together. Both had 
become friendly with Pickering during several weekends that 
they spent with him in a log cabin in Sharon to which he had 
access. In the city they devoted three or four days to attending 
the theatre and drinking at the Harvard Club bar. Reed took 
them down to Morristown, where he led the students in singing 
school and college songs, and pointed out the scenes of his erst- 


while glory. But five days of vacation remained, and there 
seemed to be no excitement left in New York. They decided to 
go to Bermuda. 

They had money enough, they estimated, but there were no 
boats that would bring them back in time for the beginning of 
classes. Pickering, a senior and therefore faced with the possible 
loss of his degree, refused to go, in spite of violent abuse, and 
Reed and Adams left without him. Their financial calculations 
had, not surprisingly, underestimated their capacities, and they 
found themselves desperately short of cash. Reed wrote out all 
the poems he had contributed to the Monthly, and succeeded 
in selling them to a newspaper. Adams raised his share by play- 
ing the piano in a resort of dubious reputation. 

They caught the boat and got back to Cambridge. The authori- 
ties could not overlook a tardy return from vacation, especially 
when it resulted from such an escapade, and they revived a form 
of punishment that had been common in the nineteenth century, 
rustication: Reed and Adams were sent to Concord for the re- 
mainder of the term. Absence from Cambridge in the spring was 
not wholly unpleasant, and Reed found time, while supposedly 
pursuing his studies under the direction of a terrified school- 
master, to make the acquaintance of Concord’s more interesting 
citizens. He also found time to send to the Western Club a daily 
bulletin in the form of a Sunday school lesson. Number seven, 
for example, bore the “golden text for the day”: “Where rolls 
the Oregon and hears no sound save his own smashings,” which 
was attributed to Bryant’s “Thanatopsis.” The bulletin read: 
“Last night Mason City and the Oregon rolled around a good 
deal in a hunt for the elusive moth miller. In the scrimmage two 
windows were broken, one electric light globe, and the lid to 
the slop jar. A large moth was severely injured about the neck 
and ears. Two old ladies who room below us and are Seventh 
Day Adventists thought that Christ had come again, and prayed 
violently all night. The hotel cat was so horrified by the unex- 
pected tumult that the next morning she was found to have 
given birth to a litter of pups in the cash register.” 

There was only one of his classes that Reed would have re- 
gretted during his rustication, and that was English i z, Charles 


Townsend Copeland’s course in composition. During his first 
two years at Harvard Reed had found occasional stimulus in 
the classroom, but he had not met any teacher who deeply 
affected him. There had, it is true, been one chance meeting that 
he always remembered. During his lonely days as a freshman he 
had found himself standing beside an elderly man in front of a 
bookstore window. They fell into conversation about the books 
exhibited, especially the works of O. Henry, which both ad- 
mired. The man invited him home to dinner, and they talked 
until midnight of Harvard, undergraduate clubs, how to become 
popular, and comic operas. As Reed left, his host asked his name, 
and, being told, gave his own: William James. 

But that was a single, casual contact. Copeland became not 
merely a teacher but also a friend. The little man, with his 
absurd dignity, his amusing poses, his pretended ferocity, and 
his ironic courtesy, did most of his teaching in his room in Hollis 
Hall, for he was too wise to suppose that the art of writing 
could be adequately treated in classroom lectures. He taught his 
students what he knew about writing in generous private con- 
ferences, and he taught them what he knew about life in friendly 
talks in the evening. On Saturday evenings students were always 
welcome, and sometimes there was a famous writer or actor to 
talk to them, though Copey was attraction enough. Precisely 
what he did for his students no one has ever managed to say, 
though dozens of his famous pupils have publicly paid tribute to 
him. “He has stimulated generations of men,” Reed wrote, “to 
find color and strength and beauty in books and in the world, 
and to express it again.” Copey gave of himself, refusing to set 
up a barrier against his students in order to preserve time for 
productive scholarship. And out of his friendship came a deep 
sense of the power and importance of the written word. 

Copeland selected the students who could take English 12 , 
and at first he did not want Reed, for he had heard that he was 
contentious and troublesome. But Reed begged and begged to be 
allowed to enter the course, promising to be well-behaved, and at 
last he was admitted. Copey soon knew that the boy had something 
like genius, and did all that he could to bring it to fruition. Reed 
was profoundly grateful. He liked the little man, liked him be- 


cause he was human and made no attempt to conceal human 
weaknesses, because he was a superb showman and knew how 
to dramatize himself, because he was such an alfront to academic 
tradition and had been punished by being kept an instructor 
while diligent nonentities rose to professorial rank. They be- 
came friends, and Reed went in and out of Hollis 1 5 as he would 
have gone in and out of the room of a classmate. He ran errands 
for Copey and accompanied him when he went away to give 
one of his famous readings. He told him his troubles and his 

On a Saturday evening only a swimming meet could keep 
Reed away from Hollis 15. He liked the room with its walls 
solidly lined with books, the fireplace, the autographed pictures, 
and Copey sitting in an armchair under the single light, smoking 
and talking. Fie liked the crowd, the boys sitting close-packed 
on the floor, athletes, scholars, aristocrats, radicals, editors, and 
the obscure, the unknown. Fie liked the talk: “Everybody talks 
of the thing nearest his heart; everybody finds himself alert, 
quick, almost brilliant.” This was romance, drama, greatness, 
life. “There are two men,” Reed wrote in 1917, “who give me 
confidence in myself, who make me want to work, and to do 
nothing unworthy.” One of them was Copeland. 

Copey gave him confidence in himself, for Copey knew that, 
whatever aristocratic opinion might hold, John Reed was des- 
tined to success. And towards the end of his junior year Reed 
found some confirmation of Copey’s trust in him. He was elected 
Ibis of the Lampoon, which meant that he was second in com- 
mand. It was true that, traditionally, the outstanding artist was 
chosen Ibis and the outstanding writer was made president. In 
reversing the order, making HalloweU president, the board was 
expressing a certain residuum of its old attitude towards Reed. 
But Reed, in his friendship for HalloweU, could not resent the 
slight, and he was satisfied with his share of the power and the 
glory. He liked the work on the Lampoon. The magazine has 
always had a glamor for undergraduates, though many of its 
editors have grown up, as Reed did, to become a little ashamed 
of it. He worried about each issue, spent nights at the printers, 
deliberated solemnly over the selection of bad jokes and fair 


cartoons, wrote and re-wrote the editorials, battled with his col- 
leagues, and sent copies, with his contributions carefully marked, 
to his mother and father. 

The Monthly, though he knew even then that it was more 
important, was less exciting, perhaps because it was less his. 
Edward Hunt had become cditor-in-chicf, and Reed, who 
would have liked the position and was a logical candidate for it, 
was not displeased. He respected Hunt, for he had come to Cam- 
bridge penniless and with a mother and two sisters to support, 
and had found time not only to organize a stenographic bureau 
and do other work to meet his and their needs, but also to be- 
come an honor student, president of the Dramatic Club, and the 
most praised of the Monthly's poets. And there were others on 
the staff whom Reed respected; Walter Lippmann, whose clear 
logic he vaguely distrusted and yet admired, and Alan Seeger, 
whose irritating aloofness from mankind and painful, rapturous 
devotion to beauty made him seem to Reed the perfect romantic 
poet. Nothing was more satisfying than to get an issue of the 
Lampoon safely on the press, but a meeting of the Monthly 
board was a foretaste of manhood. 

By the end of his junior year Reed held responsible positions 
on two magazines, was manager of the music clubs, was vice- 
president and president-to-be of the Cosmopolitan Club, and 
was captain of the water polo team. In swimming he had found 
his one opportunity to win athletic distinction, and especially 
in water polo. It was a brutal game, and Reed loved it. Since the 
only rule was that a man could not be tackled unless he was 
within four feet of the ball, there was opportunity for the rough- 
est type of combat. Men sometimes were held under water so 
long that they had to be pulled out and resuscitated, and mem- 
bers of the team were often sick for a day or two after a game. 
The absence of rules and the purely physical conflict delighted 
Reed, and the fact that the game was played in the water per- 
fected his pleasure. This minor sport, soon to be abolished at 
Harvard, gave him joy, if not honor. 

At the end of Reed’s junior year President Eliot retired, and 
the next autumn Abbott Lawrence Lowell was inducted into 



office. He was descended from Francis Cabot Lowell, who had 
founded the textile industry in New England. His father and 
both his grandfathers were successful manufacturers. Lowell 
had practiced law for seventeen years and then taught govern- 
ment at Harvard. No better man could have been found to con- 
solidate the gains that Eliot had made. A pure New Englander, 
member of a family that could boast of greatness in literature 
and in business, he knew how to cement the alliance between 
culture and industry. 

Lowell immediately sought to curb the “anarchistic spirit,” 
as Reed called it, that Eliot had fostered. Atomic individualism, 
Lowell perceived, had served its purpose, and now, if business 
was to achieve an era of stability and order, there must be 
trained, responsible leadership. Under Eliot, according to John 
Reed, Harvard was not “a brooder for masses of mediocrely- 
educated young men equipped with ‘business’ psychology; out 
of each class came a few creative minds, a few scholars, a few 
‘gentlemen’ with insolent manners, and a ruck of nobodies.” 
That was precisely what Lowell wanted to change; he wanted 
to give to each of Flarvard’s thousands of students a measure of 
culture and to impose certain minimum standards of civic 

He moved against the individualism of the Eliot era by modi- 
fying the elective system and by putting all the freshmen into 
one set of dormitories. Reed disapproved. He liked the Harvard 
in which “men could live pretty much where they pleased, and 
do as they pleased,” and “there was no attempt made by the 
authorities to weld the student body together, or to enforce any 
kind of uniformity.” He believed that whatever he owed to 
Harvard was the result of the freedom that was now to be 
abridged, and he attacked LoweU’s plans in Lampoon editorials. 

Yet Reed became in a sense an instrument of the new policy 
of conformity. Harvard had never excluded sports from its 
theory of indifference. Some men took an ardent interest in the 
teams; others paid no attention to them; either attitude was per- 
missible. But in the fall of 1909 there was talk about school 
spirit; pressure was exerted to bring men to pre-football game 
mass-meetings; the importance of cheering, which had always 


been slightly desultory, was preached. And John Reed, being 
eligible as the captain of a team, was appointed song-leader. He 
knew and resented the ridiculousness of college sentiment, but 
he could not resist “the supremely blissful sensation of swaying 
two thousand voices in great crashing choruses.” Ele wrote a 
football song called “Score,” with music by Joe Adams, in 
which he proposed to “twist the bull-dog’s tale” and to “call up 
the hearse for dear old Yale.” With Hamilton Fish, Jr., leading 
the team, Reed pranced before the stands, the most inspired 
song-leader Harvard had known. In practice meetings, Robert 
Hallowell wrote, “he would stand up alone before a few thou- 
sand undergraduates and demonstrate without a quiver of self- 
consciousness just how a cheer should be given. If he didn’t like 
the way his instructions were followed, he cursed at the crowd, 
he bullied it, sneered at it. But he always captured it.” Of course 
he knew he was being absurd, and once, when he saw a girl he 
liked in the stands and she was laughing at him, he threw down 
his megaphone and walked off the field. Usually, he did not care; 
power and drama combined were enough to make him forget 
himself, A. Lawrence Lowell, the aristocrats, and even girls. 

Cheer-leading was the most exciting activity of the autumn, 
but not the only one. The clubs and the magazines demanded 
plenty of time, and, as the football season was ending, rehearsals 
began in earnest for the production of Percy MacKaye’s The 
Scarecrow. Though Reed was only on the business staff, he took 
a strong interest in the play, and he and Kenneth MacGowan, 
Robert Edmond Jones, and Sam Eliot often went to MacKaye’s 
home to talk with the author. There they usually met Percy 
MacKaye’s brother, James, who was giving a series of lectures 
at Harvard on the politics of utility, and the discussions were 
as likely to be political as literary. Indeed, these gatherings at 
MacKaye’s were evidence of the alliance between politics and 
literature that was the foundation of the renaissance. The same 
men were active in the Monthly, the Dramatic Club, and the 
Socialist Club, and the same impulses dominated the three or- 
ganizations. Reed was equally glad to talk with Percy MacKaye 
about the role of drama and pageantry in awakening a new civic 
consciousness and with James MacKaye about the psychological 



causes of poKtical action. Walter Lippmann was more directly 
affected than Reed by James MacICaye’s utilitarianism, but Reed 
began to catch glimpses of realms of ideas he had not known. 

It is difficult, of course, not to feel that Reed would have been 
happier if he had been satisfied with the magazines and the 
Dramatic Club, with the world of ideas and literary expression. 
But he could not help craving political and social position in the 
college. Since he did want eminence in undergraduate affairs, 
it is, in view of his deep-rooted distaste for the aristocrats and 
the rebelliousness that later became so strong in him, rather 
strange that he was not a leader in the opposition party that 
developed in his class. From the fall of its freshman year, the 
class of 1910 was divided. What began as a kind of private feud 
of a student named Bob Brown against the aristocrats grew into 
a fight between the Yard and the Street. The Street was Mt. 
Auburn Street, where the richer men lived in private dormi- 
tories, leaving the relatively poor, relatively inconspicuous stu- 
dents to occupy the college dormitories in the Yard. Under 
Brown’s somewhat demagogic leadership, the unrepresented 
majority rose against the traditionally dominant minority. 

Reed’s sympathies should have been and perhaps were with 
the Yard, though he lived on the Street. During his first three 
years, without being committed to the Brown faction, he gave 
it some support; but he made no attempt to use his talents in 
leading it. He did not want to identify himself with the out- 
siders. And when, in his senior year, the insiders, the aristocrats, 
gave him a modicum of recognition, he embraced their cause. 
The nominating committee, after some hesitation, offered his 
name and G. W. Martin’s for ivy orator. Both were the Street’s 
candidates, and the Yard, nominating Frank W. Sullivan by 
petition, elected him. Reed was defeated in company with Ham- 
ilton Fish, Jr., the aristocrats’ candidate for first marshal, and a 
half dozen of the class’s choicest snobs. 

Reed could justify himself, as others did, by insisting that 
Brown had resorted to the tactics of a ward politician, but the 
clearer thinking men in the class, without deceiving themselves 
about Brown, supported what they knew to be essentially a 
democratic revolt. Reed not only turned his back on the demo- 


cratic cause; he developed a hot-tempered indignation against his 
successful opponents. On Lampoon stationery he scratched 
down a parody of Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.” 
Neither witty nor wise, it disclosed a bitterness that, once he 
understood the triviality of the whole affair and the wrongness 
of his own position, he was ashamed of. The last stanza read: 

“Charge the Committee then!” 

Three hundred stalwart men. 

Traitors to Nineteen Ten 
Broke the class spirit, while 
All the world wondered. 

Swayed by false argument. 

Urged to the polls they went, 

Scoundrels and ignorant. 

Worthy three hundred! 

The defeat by the rank and file was followed by another 
grudging recognition from the aristocracy. The Hasty Pudding 
Club, though its most conspicuous function was the annual pro- 
duction of a musical comedy, selected its members not for their 
ability as writers, composers, or actors but for their social dis- 
tinction. As a result, it found itself in the spring of 1910 without 
a member qualified to write lyrics for the forthcoming produc- 
tion. Reed’s verses in the Lampoon gave clear enough indication 
of his talent, and, without enthusiasm, the club offered him 
membership. Though he knew well enough why he was chosen, 
he was delighted with the chance to do the lyrics, and he felt 
some pride and considerable malicious satisfaction in the honor 
bestowed upon him. 

Reed’s fellow-victim of the Yard avalanche, George Martin, 
had already written the book, and Walter S. Langshaw was 
composing the music. Martin’s father, Edward S. Martin, long 
editor of Life, had known and rather liked C. J. Reed in Auburn, 
New York. Young Martin did not dislike Jack Reed, but he did 
not like him; he thought him brilliant but unsafe; the trouble, 
he felt, was that he did not know the difference between cricket 
and not-cricket; there was no telling what he might do. They 
made somewhat unfortunate collaborators, especially since 


Martin could not help realizing that Reed should have written 
the entire libretto. 

W^hat Reed did was to take full advantage of the few oppor- 
tunities for satire that Martin’s book provided. The^ were not 
many, for Dianu's Debut, as Martin had conceived it, poked 
only the politest kind of fun at Boston society. Reed’s most 
popular song, still sung at class reunions, was exceedingly simple: 

At the Somerset 
Things were rather wet. 

Big exclusive affair— 

From the lack of heat 
All of Beacon Street 
Surely must have been there. 

Slightly more pointed is the song in which one of the characters 
gives advice on the achievement of social distinction: 

Just insist that your aunt was a Cabot, 

And your grandmother’s real name was Weld. 

Try hard to make rudeness a habit. 

And be careful with whom you’re beheld. 

Be familiar with Ibsen and Wendell 
And learn to be lazy with grace; 

But if you are driven to work, why 
Lee Higginson’s really the place. 

It was not the first time that Reed had expressed his impa- 
tience with Back Bay society. In a Lampoon editorial he had 
written: “The selection of a properly qualified father and 
mother is an operation which demands a tact and finesse seldom 
possessed by children so young. . . . Hyphens are of immense 
value— remember that anyone will always be glad to lend money 
to an Endicott-Sears-Cabot, a Wendell-Wendell, or a Trum- 
buU-Peabody. ... If the child is too late to corral a Back Bay 
Brahman for a progenitor, let him seize upon a self-made man 
who has made a good job of it. Money will finally land any one 
among the Captains of Society.” 


Mild enough, it is true, but unconventional for a Harvard 
man, especially a Elarvard man who was Ibis on the Lampoon 
and a member of the Hasty Pudding Club. Reed, even as a 
senior, had no clear convictions about the aristocrats in the col- 
lege and their relatives in the Back Bay. At first he envied them, 
but he refused either to imitate or to cultivate them. He had 
brought letters from Portland to a certain number of Boston’s 
finest families, but, after his first dinner party, he tore them up 
in disgust. When he was invited to Back Bay dances or dinners, 
perversity drove him to behave as badly as possible. His room- 
mates his senior year, Carl Chadwick and Francis Davis, were 
constantly receiving invitations to social affairs, and sometimes 
Reed felt a little sorry for himself because he was so consistently 
left out. If, however, one of them had taken him to visit some 
society leader of the town, he would have started— and won— 
an argument on anarchism or free love. Ele knew that it would 
please his mother if he made the right kind of friends, and he 
was himself made a little uneasy by the insolent indifference and 
open hostility of persons of power and prestige; but he could 
not curiy favor, and he remained defiant. 

Defiance was not a principle with him; it was an instinct. He 
could detect snobbishness and pretense with unerring accuracy, 
and could affront them with unfailing precision. His seething 
energy, his love of excitement, his joy in making himself con- 
spicuous, all blended with honesty and courage, made him a 
terror to the complacent. It was pure love of excitement that 
led him and Jack Kelley, when they became bored during a 
week at Nantucket, to steal a boat and sail it to the mainland. 
It was mere playfulness that encouraged him to attend spiritualist 
meetings and build up quietly from one serious question to 
another until finally he had exposed the medium to ridicule. But 
he could go after bigger game and go after it in all seriousness. 
Professor Schofield had revived an old club, the Symposium, 
and tried to turn it into a gentlemanly affair with beautifully 
served stand-up suppers. Reed and other members very quickly 
converted polite discourse into serious and sometimes violent 
discussion. The climax came when Schofield, to let the boys 
meet a successful business man, irivited President Mellen of the 


New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, to speak. Mel- 
lon began with a baby-talk description of the locomotive as it 
was when he was a boy and how it had grown. Reed interrupted, 
and began a series of questions about the financing of the New 
Haven. Armed with facts and deadly earnest, Reed, backed by 
Alan Seeger and one or two others, pounded at Mellen until he 
writhed. William Roscoe Thayer, who was present, tried to 
restore the discussion to the level of fatuous gentility, but his 
efforts merely made Reed more savage, and he pushed relent- 
lessly on until Mellen collapsed in silence. It was a defense of 
the principles of C. J. Reed, but, more important, it was a vic- 
tory over the pompousness and hypocrisy that Jack Reed hated. 

Reed liked the Cosmopolitan Club because it made room for 
both seriousness and horseplay. To meet the men of twenty 
nations seemed to him a significant part of his education. To 
prefer their company to the company of the men of the Institute 
was a sound gesture of defiance. To find opportunities for lead- 
ership and excuses for merrymaking was a joy. He wrote and 
staged a play, called “Tit for Tat,” built around the legend of 
the Tower of Babel. He organized an international track meet. 
He taught the members songs. He and Wheeler Sammons, the 
secretary, gave a demonstration of hypnotism, in the course of 
which Reed climbed in a professorial lap and played with dis- 
tinguished whiskers. But at the annual banquet he presided with 
dignity, ceremoniously introduced the speakers, Melville E. 
Stone and Prince Selim Senudah among them, and said with 
feeling that the presidency of the club was the highest honor 
that had been bestowed on him at Harvard. 

The Cosmopolitan Club banquet was one of the events that 
marked the end of John Reed’s college career. He and Hallowell 
had, with relief and regret, turned over the Lampoon to Gluyas 
Williams and Alan Gregg. The Monthly was in new hands. All 
the managerships and captaincies, all the presidential and vice- 
presidential duties had been surrendered. Only commemorative 
exercises remained. The Monthly held a dinner, to celebrate its 
twenty-fifth anniversary, at which Santayana, MacKaye, Baker, 
and others spoke, and Reed read a poem. There was a farewell 
class party. The Hasty Pudding Club held its “strawberry 


night,” presenting a one-act play, “The Last of the Pirates,” 
which Reed had written, with music by W. B. Barker, and with 
Hanford MacNider in the cast. 

Very proud of their son’s achievement, Mr. and Mrs. Reed 
came east for his graduation. He was pleased to be able to intro- 
duce his father to certain classmates who, he knew, would 
appreciate his wit and courage. The prosecution of the lumber 
thieves had ended with an unusual number of convictions, and 
for the moment the public land was safe. C. J. Reed had offended 
the Taft administration, and he knew that, since it could no 
longer be argued by Heney and other friends that he was needed 
for a special purpose, he was certain to be ousted from the mar- 
shalship. He did not particularly care, for the position held no 
interest aside from the attack on the lumber trusts. What he now 
wanted to do was to carry on the battle of Roosevelt progres- 
sivism on other fronts, and he was planning to run for Congress. 
Since he had so frankly expressed his opinion of the regular 
Republicans, even to the extent of literally throwing the local 
boss out of his office, he had no chance but to make his cam- 
paign as an avowed insurgent. Friends in Portland believed that 
his chances were excellent, but they were distressed at his leav- 
ing just when the struggle for nomination was getting under 
way. He insisted, however, that he was going to see his son 
graduate, no matter what it cost. Both Jack and his father were 
in high spirits and happy in each other’s company. 

Class Day was on June 24. Edward Hunt recited the class 
poem, and T. S. Eliot’s ode was sung. In the stadium Reed had 
to listen to F. W. Sullivan’s ivy oration, consoling himself, per- 
haps, with the thought that he could have done better. His own 
part in the ceremonies was purely informal. There was a mo- 
ment when the class was gathered together, and he leaped upon 
a table and began to speak. The speech was a tribute to Bob 
Hallowell. Reed grew eloquent, but seriousness did not last long. 
Clarence Little, crawling beneath the table, lifted it on his back 
and toppled the speaker over. 

One thing saddened commencement week. A Negro in the 
class had been seriously ill. Not many classmates knew him, for 
only the hardest labor had got him through college, but Reed, 



always sensitive to the handicaps of men of other races, knew 
and liked him. Now, in the boy’s illness, Reed was one of two 
or three who found time to nurse him. And, as it became appar- 
ent that the Negro could not hve, Reed felt the tragedy of 
effort and self-denial that had been cheated of their reward. 

John Reed had been graduated from Harvard College. He had 
won no academic distinction, and certainly he would have 
regarded his courses as almost the least important elements in 
his education. Not that he had disliked his studies; Copey’s 
course had been a pleasure and satisfaction; William Allan Neil- 
son had helped him to discover Chaucer; Baker’s course in the 
Elizabethan drama had fed his old love of plays and play- 
writing. Fie had learned a little bit about art, music, and philoso- 
phy. Deliberately choosing a purely literary education, without 
a single course in either physical or social science, he had also 
deliberately chosen from his courses in literature the men and 
the books that interested him. He could write an acceptable 
paper on the novel of terror or the drama after 1642, because 
he found something that he wanted to talk about, but he had 
none of the diligence in dull details that brings good grades. Fie 
did not care about the grades, and he got what he wanted. 

Most of what he wanted had to be got outside the classroom. 
Early in his college years Reed tried to formulate the philosophy 
that guided his conduct at Harvard. He divided students into 
three groups: the athletes, the scholars, and the activity 
men. The first he dismissed, not perhaps without envy, as life- 
less, purposeless machines. The second he condemned as narrow. 
The third he described as “the realest expression of what Har- 
vard means today.” “They are dreamers and often poets,” he 
said, and he spoke of Theodore Roosevelt, Owen Wister, and 
Edward Sheldon as activity men. John Reed, twice an editor, 
captain of a minor sport, manager of the musical clubs, president 
of the Cosmopolitan Club, vice-president of the Dramatic Club, 
a leader in the Western Club, writer of lyrics for Hasty Pud- 
ding, member of Oracle, Round Table, and Symposium, was 
an activity man. And all these activities seemed to him exciting 
and important. He was flattered by every office and eager in the 


performance of each new set of duties. He was an activity man 
partly because he deeply craved recognition and power, but 
chiefly because he had to be active. 

He was also a literary man. It would be foolish to pretend 
that he was a distinguished writer as an undergraduate. He was 
not one of the rare individuals— perhaps less rare at Harvard 
than elsewhere— on whom a precocious brilliance descends mid- 
way in college, so that their undergraduate work is not less 
mature than whatever they do in the next ten years. Lee Simon- 
son was rather like that, bringing out of aloofness a sophistica- 
tion that dazzled his classmates. And Walter Lippmann, sud- 
denly emerging from three years of silence, became a lawgiver; 
“a Manhattan Zeus,” Edward Hunt called him, “steady, mas- 
sive, impassive, hurling his thunderbolts judiciously among the 
herds of humankind.” Even Alan Seeger, who also came star- 
tlingly out of obscurity, was no more juvenile as a Harvard 
senior than as the embattled poet of France, and had the same 
facility. Other men, too, though less amazingly developed, were 
nearer manhood than Reed: Van Wyck Brooks, who had been 
an editor of the Monthly when Reed first wrote for it; Kenneth 
MacGowan, who was one of his successors; Conrad Aiken, who 
wrote for the Advocate. 

Reed was closer to the college norm. His ambitions had no 
bounds; he wrote one-act plays, short stories, innumerable 
poems, and occasional essays; he planned a novel and a full- 
length play. His best prose was in the poetic and imaginative 
short stories of the type he had written at Morristown. When, 
as in “The Red Hand” and “In England’s Need,” he sought to 
combine fantasy and satire or fantasy and realism, he was purely 
sophomoric, but the romanticism of “The Pharaoh,” the inven- 
tiveness of “The Singing Gates,” and the allegorical unity of 
“The Winged Stone” are not unimpressive. His one serious 
attempt at realism, a description of a trip with friends in Oregon, 
smothers in poetic verbiage a sound feeling fojf the mountains 
and the sea. 

As for his poetry, it was no more commonplace than most of 
the poetry in the Harvard magazines, than T. S. Eliot’s, for ex- 
ample, and considerably less conventional. The sonnet, “Tchai- 



kowsky,” which was reprinted in the anthology with which the 
Monthly celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, compares well 
enough with the poems in the volume by men with distinguished 
names. “The Desert” and “Coyote Song,” which he chose to 
preserve in T a7nbmlame, suggest the two principal influences on 
his work: Swinburne and the esthetes, Kipling and the poets of 
action. “A Winter Run,” which is rather in the Kipling vein, 
has the merit of deriving some fine poetic imagery from actual 
Cambridge experience. Of the more literary poems, “Melisande” 
is probably the least banal. 

Reed had the sensibility of a poet, but he was not dedicated 
to poetry in the way that Alan Seeger was. He loved power and 
the exercise of his executive ability quite as much as he loved 
poetry. Moreover, he was so eager for experience that he could 
not be bothered to assimilate it. He never lacked things to say, 
but he was likely to choose an easy way of saying them. And 
the influences on his poetry— for any undergraduate poet is 
bound to be influenced— were not healthy. It was a pity that he 
should be imitative, but doubly a pity that he should imitate 
poets who were also imitators. Real poets were in the making, 
but either they had not appeared or were not known. 

Fortunately there were three men who could say to John 
Reed things that needed to be said. There was Copey, who said 
again and again that writing was important because life was im- 
portant, and who never let a man forget that he had eyes. There 
was Lincoln Steffens, not yet a close friend of Reed’s but a 
friend of his father’s and of Walter Lippmann’s. Steffens could 
tell him that there was not the great chasm between journalism 
and poetry that he imagined: “It’s all a matter of expression, 
which is journalism, and which may be literature— if the writer 
is striving not to make a work of art, but simply to tell his story 
for you and me and the man on the street.” And there was his 
old friend in Portland, Charles Erskine Scott Wood, who took 
the trouble to write the Harvard senior a long letter about 
poetry. Wood could tell him that poetry must be made new: 
“The poetry of the future must not be a re-vamping of the past, 
no matter how beautiful it may be in form. Whitman, who sac- 
rificed form and is full of excrescences, comes nearer being the 


American genius, nearer being a new man than all of them.” 
And Wood could tell him, too, that poetry could not live with- 
out the spirit of revolution: “The poetry of the future must not 
be a moral essay nor an economic tract, but it positively must 
have the pulsing thought of the modern man. If it be full of the 
surge of the ocean and the wet south wind of an ever-recurring 
spring, it must also be full of the surge of human lifeblood and 
wet with the tears of humanity.” 

Thinking of these things, Reed left Harvard. As at Morris- 
town he had made bitter enemies, who would talk for twenty- 
five years of his “showmanship and craving for notoriety,” and 
call him “a grandstand player, utterly selfish, a publicity seeker, 
basically unsound on fundamentals of religion, government, and 
society in general.” “His death,” they would say, “was the only 
piece of good fortune he contributed to the United States,” or, 
more mildly, “I always thought he was a most offensive man.” 
He also had made friends, who believed in and admired him as 
strongly as his enemies condemned him. As at Morristown he 
had learned self-confidence, but now it was a confidence that 
had triumphed over discrimination, disappointment, and defeat. 
Harvard had done him some good and much less harm than it 
does most of its graduates. It had not robbed him of his energy 
and hope, had not diminished his courage, had not made him 
ashamed of either his gayety or his seriousness. Most important 
of all, it had not closed him up, shut him away from life. He was 
only beginning to grow. 


To See the World 

AT ELEVEN-THIRTY OH the moming of July 9, 1910, the S.S. 

Bostonian left Boston with seven hundred steers on board. 

Copey had given his invariable advice: do something, see 
the world, have experience, find something to write about. And 
John Reed had listened and obeyed. He planned to work his 
way not only to Europe but around the world. His father ap- 
proved the plan, though he insisted on modifying it by drawing 
heavily on sparse resources and giving the boy, despite his pro- 
tests, one hundred dollars and a letter of credit. 

Reed had persuaded Waldo Peirce to accompany him. Peirce 
was a Maine man who had revolted against the close-figuring 
caution that had made his grandfather a power in Bangor. His 
more than two hundred pounds of solid strength had inevitably 
put him on the football team, though he disliked the long after- 
noons of dreary practice. He disliked anything that partook of 
the nature of discipline. Pie could not be bothered to work at 
drawing, though his cartoons in the Lampoon had more origi- 
nality than the sleek pictures of its cleverest artists. He could not 
be bothered to work at writing, though one or two realistic 
stories in the Monthly had exposed the empty imitativeness of 
the ruck of undergraduate tales. He could not be bothered to 
work at his courses, and the university had more than once 
penalized him. Towards the aristocrats, who had to accept him, 
he felt the careless indifference that Reed wanted to feel and 
couldn’t quite. Reed said he admired Peirce because he wore the 
kind of clothes he wanted to wear. He also admired him because 
he was one man who was more daring, more irresponsible, more 
adventurous than John Reed. 


Peirce planned to go to Paris to study painting, but he planned 
to go in the comfort of the Mauretania. Reed wanted him on the 
cattle boat, and, though he failed to get definite consent, gave 
his name to the officer when he himself signed up for the voyage. 
On the morning of departure Peirce went with Reed to the dock 
to explain that his name had been given by mistake and that he 
was not going. But Reed pleaded with him so eloquently that he 
at last agreed to let chance settle the dispute; he would go to tlic 
bank for money and, if the boat was there when he returned, he 
would sail with her. Though the boat should have departed at 
once, and though he spent as much time at the bank as decency 
would permit, he lost the bet. 

It was an uncommonly hot day, and the stench of the cattle 
filled the forecastle and hung heavy on the deck. Even out in 
the harbor the fierce heat was unrelieved. Peirce began to think 
of a girl he had wanted to see, of messages he should have sent 
his family, of the luxury of the Mauretania. He told Reed he 
had half a mind to slip overboard and swim back. Reed said it 
was ridiculous. But would it be all right with him, Peirce asked. 
“Certainly not,” said Reed. 

The dozen college students gathered on the deck and signed 
the ship’s articles. Then each was given a tin plate, tin cup, and 
spoon, and they went below to eat. There was boiled meat and 
some sort of vegetable soup with white worms in it. Peirce went 
up on deck. The water looked singularly cool and pleasant. He 
went back to the forecastle and laid his watch and wallet on 
Reed’s bed. On deck he looked carefully around. The men were 
still below, and the captain was out of sight on the bridge. He 
dove overboard. 

The water was as pleasant as he had expected. He slipped off 
most of his clothes, and swam slowly away from the vessel, try- 
ing hard to keep out of sight. His one concern was that he had 
signed the ship’s articles. Pie was committed to ten days or more 
on board that stinking ship, and he was convinced that, if the 
captain saw him, he would turn about and capture him. Reed 
might tell the captain. He watched the ship, but it moved stead- 
ily away from him. Swimming a few miles in water as calm as 
the Dunster House pool was pure pleasure on such a day. Be- 


sides, there were plenty of fishermen’s boats within hail, too 
near indeed for comfort, since, he was almost ready to believe, 
one of them might pick him up and pursue the Bostonian and 
perhaps claim a reward for the return of a fugitive cattleman. At 
last, when the Bostonian was almost out of sight, he called out 
to a pair of startled lobster fishermen, who took him aboard. 
They left him at one of the islands in the harbor, where he bor- 
rowed a pair of pants and a shirt from a soldier. Back in Boston, 
he hurried to Cambridge and told the story to his friends. 

On board the Bostonian no one, except John Reed, paid any 
attention to Peirce’s absence, and even Reed, though he sus- 
pected the truth, thought he might be asleep in the hay. But next 
morning the captain mustered all hands and discovered that 
Peirce was gone. Reed told his story and produced Peirce’s wal- 
let and watch. The captain expressed some skepticism, and the 
crew was convinced that Peirce had been murdered. Reed main- 
tained that Peirce would meet him at Liverpool. “God help 
you,” said the captain, “if he doesn’t.” 

But Reed was confident, and the threat of a hearing before the 
Board of Inquiry in Manchester did not disturb him. There was 
enough to worry him. The food was bad and the sleeping quar- 
ters unbearable. Reed wanted experience but not in so intensive 
a form. The college men got together, and discussed ways of 
making themselves more comfortable than the common bull- 
pushers. With a few bribes, they arranged for better food, and 
got permission to put up a tarpaulin tent on deck. Most of them 
were Harvard and Yale men, and they excluded two “middle- 
western muckers from the University of Illinois” from their 
“university club.” 

Reed and a man named Walker got themselves appointed 
night-watchmen. They had to look after the steers from eight- 
thirty to four in the morning, when they turned out all hands 
to feed the cattle. In the afternoon, when they awoke, they 
helped haul up the hay. As night-watchmen they were entitled 
to an extra meal, and when tips and small favors had awakened 
the second steward to a proper appreciation of the consideration 
due college boys on cattle ships, even Reed’s appetite was sated. 
He made friends with the dry, quick-witted chief engineer, who 


gave the university club the privilege of turning on the salt 
water pumps every afternoon and taking sea-baths on deck. 

As the men on board grew to like him, they became con- 
cerned over his fate. There were three Irishmen who begged 
him to slip overboard when the ship was nearest to the coast of 
Ireland. If he would go to Cork, they said, they would meet him 
and take care of him. But he laughed and declared that Peirce 
would be at the dock. They reached Liverpool, and the tug 
came out. Reed looked everywhere for Peirce, but he did not 
come, though the Mauretania had been in for two days. The 
captain and mate frowned. Finally the mate slipped on a pair of 
leg-irons and locked him in a little cabin. The ship moved slowly 
up the canal to Manchester. 

Peirce, in the meantime, had taken the Mauretania and had 
arrived in Liverpool. There had been some talk in Cambridge of 
his swimming out to meet the ship and pretending he had fol- 
lowed it all the way over. But the thought of the ship’s articles 
dispelled any humorous plans. His imagination played with the 
various forms of punishment an offended captain could employ. 
At Liverpool he kept out of sight and made inquiries. Pie wanted 
to see Reed alone; once he caught a glimpse of him, but he was 
talking with the captain. Peirce fled and went to a lawyer, who 
scoffed at his fears. 

As the Bostonian made dreary progress through the locks, John 
Reed lay awake and worried, not so much because of what might 
happen to him as because of what, he was now convinced, had 
happened to Peirce. He wished he had never asked Peirce to go 
with him, wished he had taken his suggestion seriously and dis- 
suaded him, wished he had told the captain as soon as his sus- 
picions stirred. When, preceded by the captain, flanked by two 
British bobbies, followed by the mates, the steward, tire cook, 
the crew, and the cattlemen, he marched to the Board of Trade 
building, he was almost willing to believe that he was a murderer. 

Before eleven stolid Britishers, with the officers and men of 
the Bostonian fillmg the room, Reed began his testimony. Peirce, 
fortified by legal advice, walked in. Reed called his name, and, 
unperturbed in the tumultuous room, Peirce identified himself. 
The captain rose: Do you remember,” he shouted, '’that you 


signed the vessel’s articles and that you are liable for breaking 
your contract.” 

But Peirce had been well instructed. “Yes,” he said, “but you 
are liable for criminal negligence. I was seasick. I went aft to 
lean over tlie rail. I slipped, I cried for help, I fell overboard. 
You yourself were on the bridge at the time and paid no atten- 
tion to me.” 

When it had been established that the captain was on the 
bridge, the chairman, after some reflections on Peirce’s sanity, 
ordered Reed released and Peirce’s property returned to him. 
The only punishment came when, as he left the Bostonian with 
his watch, his wallet, and his bags, the sailors and cattlemen lined 
up to express their opinion of him. Several of them shook hands 
with Reed and advised him to get rid of his partner as quickly as 

As A matter of fact, they did separate immediately, chough with 
plans to meet in London. Reed had set his mind on a walking 
trip through England, and Peirce was not interested. 

Reed went first to Chester, and at the Duke of Westminster’s 
estate he saw “a pageant so beautiful it fairly made you ache.” 
Equipped with rough clothes and stout shoes, he started off 
through the Welsh mountains. “And still,” he wrote his brother, 
“the example of American pluck, democracy, and independence 
pursues his way through these devastated reaches.” He split his 
little toe, and had to stay over for a day and a night in a little 
village, where “the people came from miles around to see the 
fool American who walked when he could ride.” 

He went on and the next night found himself with sore feet a 
long way from the nearest town. Lie saw an old Tudor mansion, 
and near the stables there was a haystack. He crawled in, took 
off his shoes, and lit a cigarette. Before he could finish it, a liv- 
eried servant appeared and cursed at him for smoking in the 

“Whose house is that?” Reed asked. 

“Mrs. Vanderbilt’s.” 

“Not Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt’s?” 

“Yes, sir— why, sir—” 


“But surely she doesn’t mind my sleeping in the hay?” 

“No, sir, I don’t suppose so-gentleman-likc, sir.” 

Reed continued to rub his feet with Ellinian’s embrocation. 

“Will that be all, sir?” asked the servant. 

“Yes, for the present. But see,” and he jingled coins in his 
pocket, “if you can’t get me a bucket of water, soap, and a towel 
in the morning; and call me at seven-thirty.” 

“Yes, sir; be careful of the hay, sir.” 

“That will be all.” 

“Good night, sir.” 

Reed slept well, and was awakened by a respectful touch at 
seven-thirty. After he had washed, he gave the servant sixpence 
and his card. “Present this,” he said, “with my compliments to 
Mrs. Vanderbilt, and say that I am very sorry not to have seen 

And he went on, to Shrewsbury, to the Royal Oak, and, tak- 
ing a train to avoid Birmingham, into Worcester. At Stratford he 
stayed at the Harvard House, saw a performance of Josephine 
Preston Peabody’s The Piper, and contrived to see Shakespeare’s 
tomb on Sunday by entering with the church-goers and avoid- 
ing the beadle. Ele rented a bicycle and went to Kenilworth, 
where he invaded the estate by the Duke of Leicester’s private 
gate, and where, finding Mervyn’s Tower closed, he broke into 
it. He went to a village festival at Chipping-Norton, and thought 
the men and women “lots cleaner and happier than our farming 
and village people.” On his way to Oxford he stopped at Wood- 
stock and stole a swim in the Duke of Marlboro’s private pool. 

Finally he reached London and met Peirce. A creditable pro- 
portion of his hundred dollars had survived the walking trip, but 
in London he began to draw on the letter of credit. He bought 
not only a heavy suit and a light tweed suit, but also a cutaway, 
a dress suit, and a tuxedo. He saw most of the sights, but he 
failed to meet Wells and Chesterton, as he had hoped to do. 

Liking London and having sold two or three articles to the 
London Daily Neavs, he contemplated remaining in England, 
but Peirce was eager for Paris, and at the end of August they 
walked to Canterbury, attended service in the cathedral, and 
went on to Dover. No ordinary method of crossing the channel 


would suit Reed. He proposed that they smuggle themselves 
across on a fishing boat, but Peirce would have nothing of it, 
and in the end Reed had to be satisfied with the rather tame ex- 
ploit of stowing away on the Calais boat. Of course they were 
caught, and there was nothing for them to do but lamely tell the 
purser that they had found a friend on board and now could 
pay their fares. Peirce was irritated and at Calais he suggested 
that they separate. Reed waUced alone down the coast towards 

In Paris he met Carl Chadwick and Joe Adams. After dressing 
in tuxedoes, with canes, gloves, and all appropriate finery, they 
had dinner at the Cafe de la Paix and went the rounds of Mont- 
martre, ending at Maxim's at four o'clock. From Maxim's they 
drove to Grez, where Chadwick's family lived. There were 
brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and 
they all “did something,” painted pictures or wrote poetry or 
composed music. Reed was delighted. 

He was delighted, too, with the freedom he found. Chadwick 
drove him and Adams to the Norman coast at St. Pierre, where 
he knew three or four French girls. “You can't imagine the free- 
dom of young girls in France,” Reed wrote his father. “They go 
without a chaperon everywhere, even on long eight-day trips 
in the auto; everybody turns in at the same hotel, or we all sleep 
together in a haystack by the roadside. Everybody makes jokes 
about the most delicate subjects, and everybody roars with 
laughter.” The three young men took two of the girls to Havre 
for the aviation meet, had dinner on the porch of the casino, 
played petits chevaux, and got back to St. Pierre at two in the 
morning, “when we all went into the ocean without anything 
on, the girls on one side of the beach and we on the other.” 

They found Peirce at Grez on their return, and Reed, Peirce, 
Adams, Chadwick, and Alden Brooks, Chadwick's brother-in- 
law, motored to San Sebastian to see a bullfight. Reed tried to 
be tough-minded about the fight. “The bull tosses the horse, at 
the same time goring him, so that his guts hang out. Then they 
flog the horse to his feet again, and make him fight with his 
bowels hanging out.” Bullfights, after all, were experience. But 
what really excited him was Spain. They had all planned a walk- 


ing-trip, but the others were lazy or had tilings to do in Paris 
or had been unfortunate at San Sebastian’s gambling tables, and 
Reed, without knowing a word of Spanish, started off alone. 

tie bought a peasant’s corduroys and, with his camera over 
his shoulders, marched through the green fields and along the 
lively rivers of the country of the Basques. Tliat night he 
watched the dancers in the plaza of Tolosa and listened to the 
music of a band of blue-bloused peasants. In the third-class coach 
—“the last survival of the Inquisition,” he called it— of the train 
to Burgos, he was the object of argumentative curiosity and lav- 
ish hospitality. In Burgos he followed a solemn proccs.sion to 
high mass in the cathedral, and saw a witch hunt. ()n the way to 
Valladolid he made the acquaintance of a sailor who could say 
“godam.” The sailor happened to be lousy, and the keeper of the 
inn he chose tried to charge Reed, at the sailor’s suggestion, 
double the normal amount for lodging for the two. But he 
bought Reed a beer and saw him to the train. 

Changing trains at Medina del Campo, where a royal visitor 
was expected, he was arrested on suspicion of being an anarchist. 
Once he had satisfied the authorities, he wanted to stay in the 
warm examination room, but he was sent back to the bare, un- 
heated station. Salamanca delighted him and roused him to spec- 
ulation on religion and art. En route to Toledo, again third-class, 
he was once more pointed at and questioned, but this time, when 
it emerged that he was a North American, he was attacked, to 
the delight of everyone in the car, by a biting, scratching wom- 
an who had had a son killed in ninety-eight. Two days of To- 
ledo— “the most wonderful of Spanish cities, more regal than 
Madrid, more gloriously disdainful than Burgos”— were not 
enough: he wanted weeks to study the cathedral, look at the El 
Grecos, wander in the streets. But he went on to Madrid, where 
he slept for two nights in the park under a borrowed blanket, 
spent a day at the Prado, and looked in vain for the exotic 
glamor Carmen had taught him to expect. The third-class ticket 
for Paris took the last of the money he had with him. 

In Paris Reed began to take stock. He began to question a little 
the wisdom of trying to go around the world, though he was 



still willing to make a try if he could find anyone to go with 
him. The dash into Spain, glad as he was that he had made it, 
had taught him a lesson: “It’s no fun,” he wrote his brother, “to 
bum your way alone in this beast of a continent, because if you 
haven’t anybody to laugh with, there isn’t a hell of a lot of hu- 
mor in it.” Paris would suit him for the fall and early winter, and 
then perhaps a trip through Italy, Greece, Austria, and Ger- 
many. He would return home in the spring. 

He took a room at the Hotel des Deux Anges and covered the 
walls with posters. Sleeping late, he usually met Waldo Peirce at 
a cafe for breakfast. In the afternoon he tried to write or worked 
on his French. In the evening he and Peirce and anyone they 
happened to meet wandered around Montmartre or dropped in 
at the Bal Bullier. He was occasionally invited to polite dances, 
and Professor Schofield, who was exchange professor at the Sor- 
bonne and sought to become the mentor of all Harvard youths 
in France, had him for dinner and lectured him on his behavior. 

His behavior invited rebukes, though he was quick to resent 
them. He and Peirce competed in the invention of new ways of 
shocking the American colony. They broke into respectable 
parties dressed in bizarre clothes. They welcomed brawls in 
cheap cafes. They not only frequented low resorts, but boasted 
of their exploits, adjusting the degree of exaggeration to the hor- 
ror of the listener. 

“This is the greatest place in the world,” he wrote his family 
and his friends. It was a great place because it was free. “You 
never imagined such utter freedom,” he informed Alan Gregg. 
“Freedom from every boundary, moral, religious, social.” Reed 
wanted freedom for its own sake and because in freedom lay 
romance. In college he had avoided, in large degree and perhaps 
completely, the kind of sexual exploits that undergraduates with 
a little money were likely to engage in. In Paris he thought he 
was not buying a woman; he was taking a mistress. One night it 
occurred to him that he must bring her flowers. He bought a 
cabful, and he and his friends went to the girl’s room and heaped 
them over her on her bed. This was romance. But there was a 
night when she stroked his hair and said, “Tell me; how do you 
make your money?” Throwing on his clothes, he ran down- 


stairs, and walked and walked until the bad taste was out of his 

His education continued. He was very glad that he had gone 
to Harvard, and, when he discovered that most of the Harvard 
men in Paris had belonged to the Hasty Pudding, he was inclined 
to forget the way in which he had been taken into the club. 
Harvard was a good deal in his thoughts. He cabled congratu- 
lations to Copey when he was made an assistant professor. He 
proposed to Waldo Peirce that they take a tramp steamer back 
to America and turn up on the eve of the Yale game. “It would 
be,” he said, with an appreciation of his own legend tliat Copey 
could not have bettered, “such a characteristic thing for us to 
do.” He laid bets with the Yale men in Paris on the outcome of 
the game, went to the annual Harvard dinner, and was down- 
hearted when the news came that the best Lothrop Withington’s 
team could achieve was a tie. He was affectionately concerned 
about the Lampoon, pleaded with Alan Gregg to send him 
copies, and wrote detailed criticisms of the issues he saw. He 
even wrote a serial for the Lampoon, describing the mythical 
adventures of Dean Hurlbut and Regent Stearns in Paris. 

Harvard, four months after graduation, was still the most im- 
portant thing in John Reed’s life. “You hear lots of graduates 
telling how small things are at collage, now that they are out,” 
he wrote Gregg. “That makes me foam at the mouth, because 
college always looms tremendous to me. The foolishnesses I did 
there smart just as much, the good things have more of a glamor 
than ever.” There are two ways, he went on, of taking college: 
“one as a school, where nothing really counts but what applies 
materially to your after success-or that it is a separate life, I 
took the latter and I’m not sorry.” Now, he felt, he was begin- 
ning something new, which had no continuity with college, and 
for which college had been a preparation only insofar as it had 
given him a chance to find himself through victory and defeat. 

But he sometimes wondered whether he had found himself or 
not. He had been so absorbed in college life that he had seldom 
considered what lay outside the bounds of Harvard. Four 
months in Europe had shown him so much that Harvard had 
not prepared him for that he was a little frightened. “The first 


effect of being over here,” he told Gregg, “is a pretty full real- 
ization of all you have ever dreamed of. This is followed by a 
sort of top-heavy exhilaration, when you want to be arrested, or 
join the Foreign Legion, or tear off a bizarre party in the Apache 
district. And then one morning you wake up just five years older 
than you M'^cre the night before. Every bit of self-confidence you 
got in college leaks out, or at least mine did. I’m just emerging 
from a period of shakiness and doubt in myself that was pretty 
morbid for about two weeks.” 

One thing that shook Reed’s self-confidence was the utter lack 
of self-distrust in his fellow-alumni in Paris. He was associating, 
on fairly intimate terms, with men who had snubbed him in col- 
lege. Paris, which had so excited him and changed his ideas, did 
not deflect them an iota from the complacent pursuit of the way 
of life they had followed in Cambridge. Except that they took 
full advantage of the opportunities for promiscuity, they lived 
lives that differed scarcely at all from those they had lived on 
Mount Auburn Street. They knew what they wanted, and he 
did not. He was tempted to conform to their standards, but 
every concession he made seemed disastrous. Finally he told him- 
self, “If you try to pretend you are wise, you’re a goner; some- 
body’ll get you sooner or later. Therefore say your mind on 
everything, no matter how stupid it seems. If someone talks high 
philosophy, and you think low, out with it, and be despised if 

“I find myself at outs with all the world,” he exclaimed, “and 
it must be my fault.” He wished he could be “a lazy philosopher, 
like Waldo, who can sit on his tail, at friends with all the world, 
and sudc the sweetness of things.” He wished he could settle 
down, like Gluyas Williams, who had come to Paris to study 
art, and, though baffled and disappointed, was driving himself 
every daylight hour in his studio. He did not know what to think 
or what to do. He began to wonder if his father, who had been 
defeated for Congress and was having to return to the selling of 
insurance, could afford the luxurious and leisurely education of 
his two sons. The realization grew that he must return to Amer- 
ica and find a job. 

John Reed’s remedy for melancholy was, of course, action. 


and the kind of action that proved most effective was travel. He 
began the exploration of as much of France as lay within easy 
reach of Paris. In the intervals between his trips, he wrote short 
stories and accounts of his journeys. As Christmas drew near, 
and the thought of the sacrifices his mother and father had made 
became sharper, he wrote a poem for his mother. Gluyas Wil- 
liams, who had always thought of Reed as uncommonly free 
from sentiment and even ruthless, was amazed to find him, one 
afternoon, hand-lettering and decorating the poem, a task to 
which he had devoted himself for days. 

He planned one more trip before he returned to America. He 
set off alone to the south of France, to Orange, Avignon, Taras- 
con, and Marseilles. Avignon he thought the most beautiful city 
he had ever seen. “I went to a Medieval theatre last night, slept 
in a Pre-Raphaelite bed, and am now eating an early Renaissance 
lunch.” He became excited about the Proven9al poets, especially 
Mistral, whose “Mireille” he tried to translate into English verse. 
“Marseilles,” he wrote his father, “is a great city. I imagined 
such a place, once, where all the nations meet and jostle on the 
Cannabi^re, where there is a port that beats anything I ever saw, 
and a restricted district that has Flell lashed to the mast; but I 
never hoped to see it.” He arrived at night, chose a hotel “as is 
my custom, right off the bat, without inquiries or the consulta- 
tion of guides or other holy writs,” and immediately sought out 
the district that Baedeker described as “dangerous after dark.” 
He stayed there until one, “talking with all the motherly old 
prostitutes, and childish young prostitutes, and Lascar sailors.” 
He went over the ground of Monte Christo, spent hours on the 
quais, and climbed the mountain to the Church of Notre Dame 
de la Garde to look down over the city to the Mediterranean. 

“Marseilles,” he wrote, “is a much more romemtique city than 
Paris, if you know what I mean. For instance, you sec the sun go 
down over the Louvre, and you know it’s going down over the 
English channel and the Hebrides. You see it set at Marseilles, 
and it goes to bed behind the Pillars of Hercules, with the na- 
tions tacking out to sea from Marseilles to fish in their red-sailed 
feluccas. In Paris, the Seine flows into the Manche, where the 
fast mail-boats tear across from Havre to Southampton; at Mar- 


seilles, the turquoise water leads your eyes gently out through 
the jungle of masts to the blue horizons— beyond them are Italy 
and Greece, Asia and Egypt, Algiers and Spain! The wind comes 
down from Germany at Paris— the mistral brings to Marseilles a 
sound of solemn bells from Avignon and guitars from Arles, and 
the smell of Provence. At Paris, Notre Dame and the Louvre are 
elegant, spic-and-span; at Marseilles, there is a Greek inscription 
on the walls of the Chateau St. Jean, at the entrance of the Old 
Port, which the waves of the Phoenician Sea have worn thin for 
centuries and centuries. Paris is fine and insidious and chic— Mar- 
seilles is bluff and masculine.” 

He left Marseilles to go to Toulon, where he met Waldo 
Peirce and Harold Taylor. With them were three friends of the 
Chadwicks, Madeleine and Marguerite Filon, nieces of a famous 
scholar, and Mme. Beaurain. The six of them walked together 
along the coast to Monte Carlo, taking their time, turning aside 
now and then into the mountains, staying in little hotels, swim- 
ming whenever they felt like it. The men bore the packs, and 
they all carried long bamboo canes. They visited Roman ruins, 
laughed back at the wondering people of the seaside resorts, 
went fishing in a hired boat on the Mediterranean. Reed chose the 
routes and the inns, and managed the money. After nine days 
they came to Nice, spent an evening at the Casino, and went on 
to Monte Carlo. 

The first evening Peirce, having lost all that he could afford, 
went back to his room. Reed came in much later, so excited 
that his roommate was sure he had won heavily at the tables. 
He was engaged to Madeleine Filon. The trip had been “a dream 
of joy from beginning to end,” and anything less than a grand 
romantic gesture would be anti-climax. As soon as he could get 
his things together, he left for America “to make a million dol- 
lars and get married.” 


pROtFD New York 

M aking only one stop-at Cambridge— John Reed returned 
to Portland. Family finances he found rather worse 
than he had expected. Although the real estate owned 
by the Reeds and the Greens theoretically represented a com- 
fortable sum, it was so burdened with mortgages and the owner- 
ship was so divided that his father could realize little money 
from it, and was having difficulty in meeting daily expenses. 
There was no doubt that the son would have to find a job as 
soon as possible. 

His mother and father tried to be pleasant about the engage- 
ment, but he could see that they were distressed. Their friends 
were dismayed at his planning to marry a French girl, and his 
friends were dismayed at his planning to marry at all. They asked 
him how he planned to support a wife on rejection slips, and he 
had no answer except to set his jaw and consign the whole city 
to hell. 

If he had to find a job, he had no intention of looking for it in 
Portland. Despite his mother’s objections, he hastened back to 
New York, where the first thing he did was to join the Harvard 
Club and the second was to get in touch with Lincoln Steffens. 
Steffens said, “I guess you wiU have your chance.” He had al- 
ways regarded Reed and Lippmann, whom he had already 
placed on Everybody's, as his boys. He secured Reed a tempo- 
rary position on the Globe and then set him to work on the 
American Magacdne. 

Reed had been a little afraid of Steffens when he met him at 
Harvard; he seemed too serious, too wise, too difficult to talk 




to. But now the man’s kindness swept all reserve away. “You 
can do anything you want to,” said Steffens, and Reed believed 
him. From then on Reed took all his difficulties to Steffens, who 
smiled and understood and let the boy solve his problems for 
himself. From then on Steffens stood with Copeland— the two 
men who made Reed want to do nothing unworthy. And Stef- 
fens had something to give Reed’s mind. 

The job on the American, Steffens warned, was merely a 
springboard; it would do for the time being. The magazine was 
changing. It was still publishing the work of the muclorakers 
who had taken it over in 1905, the old McClure's crowd, Stef- 
fens himself, Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, William Allen 
White. Miss Tarbell was writing on the tariff and Baker on the 
revolt against Taft. Albert Jay Nock, who was on the staff, ex- 
pounded the single tax, and Frederick Taylor wrote on scientific 
management. But the proportion of fiction grew larger and 
larger, serials by W. J. Locke and Frances Hodgson Burnett, 
stories by Samuel Hopkins Adams, Neith Boyce, Edna Ferber, 
and Dorothy Canfield. And John Siddall, developing the meth- 
ods that were to make the American so profitable an organ of 
the gospel of success, had introduced a department called “Inter- 
esting People.” 

Reed’s work was purely routine: correcting proof, reading 
manuscripts, and, later, helping to make up the magazine. To 
supplement the meager salary he took an additional job as busi- 
ness manager of a quarterly. Landscape Architecture, which was 
soon buried beneath a pile of bills. The million was a long way 

He could afford to forget the million, however, because in 
June he broke his engagement. In February he wrote an elo- 
quent letter to Waldo Peirce from Pordand, beseeching him to 
forsake his vagabond ways, to find his true love and settle down 
with her. In July he informed Peirce: “A man does not meet his 
predestined mate— never. He could love and be married and be 
happy with any one of a thousand.” “The nightmare of this 
spring!” he cried. “To have to write— to have to be passionate 
every other day.” Besides, he said, “I was sentimental about it, 
and remained chaste up to the other night.” Five months was a 


long time for the enchantment of the Mediterranean to last. His 
family was very glad. 

There was more time for literary work now, though he had 
been prolific enough before. He saved each rejection slip, and 
the number grew. Out of his six months in Europe came an 
essay, “A Dash Into Spain,” which went from magazine to maga- 
zine and always came back, and half a dozen short stories. “Over- 
board” was taken in hand by Julian Street and finally appeared 
in the Saturday Evening Post. “The Man from the Seine” found 
its way to the Century office, and appeared, with some revision, 
a year after it had been written. “Showing Mrs. Van” was, after 
many delays, taken by the Smart Set. Other stories were less 

The first pieces he had published were an editorial, “Immi- 
grants,” which Collier's took, and an essay, “The Involuntary 
Ethics of Big Business,” which a magazine called Trend accepted 
and printed but did not pay for until Reed had brought suit. 
Steffens liked “Immigrants” well enough, but the essay, he 
gently suggested, was a little dubious. It tried to prove that the 
big business man, who seeks only efficiency and profit, miracu- 
lously achieves beauty, liberty, and justice. Reed called it a 
fable; Steffens— but it was not his way— could have found a bet- 
ter word. 

Other essays, including a facetious discussion of the quick 
lunch and an elaborate satire on the theatre, went the way of so 
many of the short stories, but within a year after he arrived in 
New York Reed had had work accepted by Collier's, the Ameri- 
can, the Saturday Evening Post, the Forum, and the Century. 
Arthur Foote had set one of his poems, “The Wanderer to His 
Fleart’s Desire,” to music. He had been elected to the Dutch 
Treat Club. Robert Benchley had asked him for advice on how 
to become a writer, and Copey had requested him to speak to 
English 12 . The editors of the American were beginning to value 
him as a contributor as well as a colleague: they had printed 
three brief articles by him, including a tribute to Copey which it 
had been a satisfaction to write, and a number of poems. The 
successful men at the Dutch Treat Club, the Irwins, Tom Mas- 
son, Rupert Hughes, James Montgomery Flagg, Irvin Cobb, 


Julian Street, the men who knew what the public wanted and 
how to get paid for supplying it, said that John Reed was a com- 
ing man. 

Long before he could regard it as the scene of his success, John 
Reed loved New York. It was the enchanted city. 

O let some young Timotheus sweep his lyre 
Hymning New York. Lo! Every tower and spire 
Puts on immortal fire! 

This city, which ye scorn 

For her rude sprawling limbs, her strength unshorn,— 

Hands blunt from grasping, Titan-like, at Heav’n,— 

Is a world wonder vaulting all the Seven! 

Rome, Babylon, Athens, and Troy were gone. Romance was 

This spawning filth, these monuments uncouth 
Are but her wild, ungovernable youth. 

But the sky-scrapers, dwarfing earthly things,— 

Ah, that is how she sings! 

Wake to the vision shining in the sun! 

Earth’s ancient, conquering races rolled in one, 

A world beginning,— and yet nothing done! 

The vantage point from which he began his affectionate, un- 
tiring explorations of the city was Greenwich Village. The Vil- 
lage, with its vestiges of ancient respectability and its neighbor- 
ing slums, grew slowly towards Bohemian notoriety. At 42 
Washington Square, Reed and three Harvard friends, at Reed’s 
suggestion, rented rooms in the fall of 1911. Robert Andrews 
and Alan Osgood had been on the Lampoon, Robert Rogers on 
the Monthly. Andrews, who had gone through college in three 
years and was now working in the advertising department of 
Lamont, Corliss and Company, was tart and critical, quick to 
ridicule excesses or expose fallacies. Osgood, perhaps the least 
mature of the quartet, Reed liked for that very reason. He was 
always gay, good-natured, ready to play. When the four of 


them started out together for an evening, Reed and Osgood, 
running ahead, would alternately hide in doorways and leap out 
at each other. Even the Village gaped at them, and waiters at 
the Brevoort trembled at their arrival. Rogers, who had gone to 
work on the Brooklyn Eagle, with Hans von Kaltenborn, Sam- 
uel Duff McCoy, and Don Marquis, was, already, a little too 
thick-set for street races, and he and Andrews joined in sardonic 
commentary on the behavior of their roommates. 

Usually there was some other Harvard man with them. Joe 
Adams, working for an investment house in Chicago, would stay 
for a week or two. Alfred Kuttner joined them for part of the 
year. Alan Seeger, who had come down from New Hampshire 
to take a position at the Spanish Museum, gave up his job out of 
sheer emotion when he fell in love, and spent most of his time 
at 42 Washington Square. I-Ie would walk in with his white, 
mask-like face and his stony eyes, and stand about until some- 
body fed him. If no one was at home, he would leave his poems 
under the door, with a note asking Reed to sell them if by any 
chance they could be sold. Then he would go and lie on the 

But the most important resident of the house, so far as Reed 
was concerned, was Lincoln Steffens. Reed had persuaded him 
to come there, and he had rooms underneath theirs. Whenever 
he was in town, Reed would come banging into his room, any 
time after midnight, and tell him in excited superlatives what 
he had seen or done. Steffens would listen, without impatience, 
whether the talk was about girls or revolutionists, but in time it 
occurred to him that Reed was losing good literary material and 
he was losing sleep. “Write it down,” he said. Reed did, and the 
next day Steffens would criticize what he had written and make 
him re-write it. And he was as ready to deal with personal prob- 
lems as literary ones. “You’re not in love,” he wrote Reed from, 
one of his trips out of town, “or you’d never put it that way. 
‘Damn it! I’m afraid I’ve fallen in love again.’ You’re not and 
you weren’t before. So watch out.” 

Steffens was even ready to lend money on the proper occa- 
sions. Reed was hard up a good deal of the time, and at first he 
tried to borrow from Steffens to pay his rent and other expenses. 



Steffens refused. “No regular bills, Jack,” he said; “but when- 
ever you want money for some wasteful, idiotic affair that no- 
body else would think of, then you can come to me.” 

Reed took him at his word, and in the Christmas holidays he 
suddenly demanded a considerable sum. Edward Hunt had come 
down from Cambridge at Christmas, worn out by eighteen 
months in the dean’s office after four exacting years in college, 
and prostrated by the sudden death of his brother in South 
America. Reed decided he must have a vacation: he would take 
him to Bermuda. Without telling Hunt, he wrote Dean Hurlbut 
aiad President Lowell, both of whom heartily consented. He 
wrote Hunt’s mother and got her approval. Then he obtained 
leave of absence from the American, and bullied Robert Rogers 
into asking the Eagle for a vacation. Finally, when every other 
provision had been made, he borrowed the money from Steffens. 

Hunt, suddenly informed of the project, thought of a dozen 
reasons why he could not go. Reed confronted him with a let- 
ter or telegram to meet each objection. Lowell had wired, “Take 
Hunt by all means,” and, Reed threatened to follow this injunc- 
tion if it meant the use of knock-out drops. Hunt gave in. 

They left on the coldest day of the winter of 1911-12. The 
steam pipes froze. There were six berths in the stateroom, and 
one was occupied by an aged actor who was dying of tubercu- 
losis, and another held a groaning convalescent from blood-poi- 
soning. Hunt became seasick, went on deck, and just escaped 
when a heavy sea wrenched off an iron ladder and sent it crashing 
through the rail. Reed wrote: 

Each steward marked his helpless prey 
And Hunt became a leetle gray 
As Coney Island fell away 
Across an ocean bleak. 

But once they were in Bermuda, it was extraordinarily pleas- 
ant. Reed, of course, was their guide. Hunt, slight and wan, 
eagerly followed his impetuous lead, and Tubby Rogers smiled 
and chuckled as he bobbed along beside them. Hamilton was too 
expensive, and they went to St. George’s, where Reed immedi- 


ately made friends with the garrison and found entertainment 
for them. Flunt’s natural charm expanded in the benevolent 
wannth, and he returned to Cambridge with an ebullience that 
made Reed and Rogers rejoice. They felt that the money had 
been well expended, and began to pay it back to Steffens, wrap- 
ping bills as they could spare them around his door knob. After 
this had gone on for a few weeks, Reed announced that he didn’t 
intend to go on paying for the rest of life and demanded a state- 
ment. When Steffens realized that neither he nor they had kept 
any account, he canceled the debt, and Reed danced with joy. 

There was always some kind of excitement at 42 Washington 
Square. When Rogers was leaving town for a time, Reed insisted 
that there must be a farewell party at the Brevoort, and, after 
the half-dozen of them had had enough of eating and drinking, 
he led the whole party to the Grand Central. Rogers said good- 
bye, got on the train, found his berth, and prepared to retire. 
Andrews and Reed waited until he was partly undressed, and 
then rushed into the car and brought him out onto the platform. 

Elilarity made it seem foolish to go home, and so, when the 
train had finally left, they went into a saloon. A man came up 
and spoke to them, mentioning his name, which they pretended 
not to understand. Reed called him Box, Andrews addressed him 
as Cox, McCoy named him Sox. They tired of the game, and wan- 
dered over to Times Square. While they were in Child’s, the 
same man appeared, and they again hailed him as Box, Cox, and 
Sox. Angered, he stated with dignity his full name and address. 
Reed remembered them, and, as soon as they left the restaurant, 
led the others to a telegraph office, where each of the trio sent the 
gentleman a long collect telegram. 

By now Reed was determined to show his friends what Fulton 
Street Market looked like in the early morning. TItey must go 
and sec “the red and green and gold sea things glisten in the blue 
light of the sputtering arcs.” They did, stopping now and then 
for another drink, and Reed realized that he was unlikely to be 
equal to the day’s work. He sent a telegram to Phillips: “Having 
spent last night in a barrel of squid will not be at work. Reed.” 
The idea pleased him, and subsequently he either did try sleep- 
ing with squid or convinced himself that he had, for he wrote: 


I have watched the summer day come up from the top of a pier of 
the Williamsburgh Bridge, 

I have slept in a basket of squid at the Fulton Street Market. 

To his roommates he seemed a mad playboy with a streak of 
poetry, but to strangers he was a very puzzling young fellow. 
A popular illustrator, who was under contract to do a series of 
sketches of European celebrities, was looking for some one to 
write the accompanying interviews. A friend suggested Reed. 
She found him breezy, nice-mannered, smiling, broad-shoul- 
dered but a little flabby, good-looking in a pale-eyed, round-faced 
way. He was very confident that he could do what she wanted 
done, and his assurance amused and irked her. Deciding to test 
his qualifications, she suggested that he do an imaginary inter- 
view with an elderly duchess who had recently arrived in New 
York. In the course of his article he described how his card was 
sent up to the duchess, speaking of the pneumatic tubes as the 
guts of the hotel, and saying that the card was evacuated. He 
liked the phrases, and, when the illustrator criticized them, took 
offense. He was not, he said, going to play second fiddle to a 
fussy female, and they separated. She thought him vain, theatri- 
cal, and superficial. 

He was vain, perhaps, and a little theatrical, but he was not 
superficial. However unsettled and immature his ideas, his feel- 
ings were deep and sound. Strongest of all his feelings at the 
moment was his love of New York, his city. “Within a block of 
my house,” he wrote, “was all the adventure in the world; within 
a mile was every foreign country.” Night after night he wan- 
dered the streets from his beloved skyscrapers downtown to the 
obscurest corners of the city. He was never tired of the alien 
towns of the East Side, loved the shrill markets under the roar- 
ing bridges and the clamorous pushcarts with their smoky flares. 
“I know Chinatown, and Little Italy, and the quarter of the 
Syrians; the marionette theatre, Sharkey’s and McSorley’s sa- 
loons, the Bowery lodging houses and the places where the 
tramps gather in winter; the Haymarket, the German Village, 
and all the dives of the Tenderloin.” 

The girls that walked the streets were friends of his, and he 


talked with drunken sailors off sliips from the world’s ends. Fie 
found wonderful restaurants where he could try the foods of all 
the nations. Chance acquaintances told him how to get dope, 
where to go to hire a man to kill an enemy, what to do to get 
into gambling rooms and secret dance-halls. He found the old, 
beautiful, leisurely squares and streets that were being sub- 
merged by the advance of the slums. He went to gangsters’ balls 
at Tammany Hall, took part in an excursion of the Tim Sullivan 
Association, joined the surging crowds at Coney Island. 

He knew as well the houses along Fifth Avenue and Riverside 
Drive, the fashionable hotels, the festive first-nights at theatres. 
The theatre always stirred him. He saw everything that came to 
the city: John Barrymore in Unde Sam and Ethel Barrymore in 
The Witness for the Defense, Margaret Anglin in Green Stock- 
ings, Otis Skinner in Kismet, Mrs. Fiske in Lady Patricia, David 
Warfield in The Return of Peter Grimm, Weber and Fields in 
Hokey-Pokey. He saw the Irish Players do Riders to the Sea 
and The Rising of the Moon and the Little Theatre do Gals- 
worthy’s Pigeon. He stood in line for hours to see the opening 
game of the World’s Series, sat in the cheering section at the 
Flarvard-Yale game, took his friends to Barnum and Bailey’s 
circus at the Garden. 

Though he had never admitted it to himself, John Reed had 
been looking for romance only in the past; that was why he had 
written his short stories about the end of Atlantis or the decline 
of the Pharaohs, and his poems about Guinevere and Melisande. 
In New York he learned to love and to write about the things 
he saw. “There I got my first perceptions of the life of my time. 
The city and its people were an open book to me; everything 
had its story, dramatic, full of ironic tragedy and terrible humor. 
There I first saw that reality transcended all the fine poetic in- 
ventions of fastidiousness and medievalism. I was not happy or 
well long away from New York.” 

Lincoln Steffens listened with joy to Reed’s stories of the city. 
He wanted Reed to let his eyes do everything for him that they 
could. He introduced him to radicals of every variety, Socialists, 
anarchists, single-taxers, labor leaders, and “all the hair-splitting 
Utopians and petty doctrine-mongers who cling to the skirts of 


Change.” Occasionally he recommended books, which Reed 
would buy at Frank Shay’s bookshop, and perhaps finish. But 
StejEFens knew that ideas alone didn’t mean much to Reed, who 
said, “I have to see.” He did see, and, with Steffens’ unobtrusive 
help, felt and understood what he saw: “I couldn’t help but ob- 
serve the ugliness of poverty and all its train of evil, the cruel 
inequality between rich people who had too many motor-cars 
and poor people who didn’t have enough to eat. It didn’t come 
to me from books that the workers produced all the wealth of 
the world, which went to those who did not earn it.” 

This was what Socrates Steffens wanted. Reed began to realize 
that he had been privileged. Through no merit of his own, he 
had been given opportunties that had enabled him not merely to 
escape from poverty but also to learn to enjoy the color and 
drama of life. He had always sympathized with underdogs, re- 
volting equally against the little injustices of snobbish society and 
the major injustices that wete done to Indians and Chinese on 
the Coast and to the poor of New York. He began to feel more 
than sympathy, however; intimacy with the more rebellious 
underdogs brought liking and respect. He hated uplifting re- 
formers, but he admired men who fought for their rights. 

Slowly he began to take cognizance of the changes that were 
taking place in him. He did not sit down and try to formulate a 
philosophy, but he did experiment in revaluation. Before he had 
come to New York life had offered nothing more important than 
Harvard, and his four years there still seemed exciting and sig- 
nificant, He went to Cambridge as often as he could, was 
delighted to discuss with his successors the problems of the 
Monthly and the Lampoon, was proud to be invited to speak to 
English 12 . But he knew that his values were changing. To 
record and clarify these changes he wrote an essay, never pub- 
lished, called “The Harvard Renaissance.” 

The essay praised Harvard for its long line of rebellious indi- 
viduals, its “army of independent thinkers,” and went on to de- 
scribe, in detail, the sudden surge of rebellious activity that had 
come in his undergraduate years. Perhaps aware that, if his own 
nature had permitted, he might have belonged to the tradition of 
conformity rather than the tradition of revolt, he paid tribute to 


the men who had never been tempted by the glamor of the final 
clubs. He gave most credit for the renaissance to the Socialist 
Club, to which he had never belonged. 

In the fall of 191 1 the undergraduate radicals had clashed with 
the administration, which had refused to pennit Mrs. Pankhurst 
to speak in a college building, and Reed made his article an at- 
tack on the authorities and a plea for free speech. The respect- 
able alumni had come to Lowell’s support. A person calling him- 
self “an ex-Editor of the Harvard Advocate” had produced a 
booklet, “The Harvard Radicalettes,” in which he described the 
Socialists “with gawky, ill-fitting clothes hanging badly on their 
puny figures.” Samuel A. Eliot, Jr., grandson of the former 
president, had presided at a meeting for Emma Goldman, whom 
he had addressed as comrade. The ex-editor of the Advocate 

We hang our heads in shame 
To speak his grandson’s name 
Unhonored, who by dint 
Of yellow journal’s print 
Has spread his name abroad 
To win the worthless laud 
Of those who go about 
With clamor and with shout 
In high unselfish guise 
To flout the good and wise 
And ravish for their spoil 
The fruit of others’ toil, 

With social dynamite 
More base than open fight. 

In answering such abuse Reed was making clear to himself 
what had been important in his four Harvard years and what 
had not. He was far from feeling indifierence to the university, 
but at least he could discriminate. 

He was also beginning to discriminate in literary matters. He 
had come to New York with the same desire he had had when 
he entered Harvard, the desire to win all possible prizes. When 
he had thought of himself as a writer, he had thought of the 


widely-circulated magazines, the magazines that paid big prices. 
But in a year marked by unusual success he had begun to under- 
stand how the prizes were paid for. In an essay called “Art for 
Art’s Sake,” apparently written for the clarification of his own 
mind, he recorded that the men he respected, such as Lippmann 
and Steffens, all agreed that their best work could not be pub- 
lished in the popular magazines. On the other hand, John Siddall, 
whom he liked and whose shrewdness he acknowledged, pointed 
out that, if a writer did not write as these magazines demanded, 
he had no audience. The writer, Siddall said, should be humble. 
Failing to recognize the full insidiousness of this defense of the 
status quo, Reed impulsively rebelled against it. “The trouble 
with all the American mediocrities,” he exclaimed, “is that they 
want individuals to all be worms and grovel on the ground.” 
Shelley, Nietzsche, Emerson, and Whitman had not been hum- 
ble, he declared, and added Shaw, Ibsen, and Rodin to the list. 
As for him, he would write what he wanted to write: “A real 
artist goes on creating for art’s sake whether he achieves publica- 
tion or not.” 

Before John Reed could discover what happens to the real art- 
ist who goes on creating for art’s sake, there came a sudden and 
painful break in his literary progress. At the end of June his 
mother wired that his father was dangerously ill and he must 
return to Portland. 

Reed had been constantly drawing closer to his father. His 
mother wrote him lively letters, and he replied with long ac- 
counts of what he was doing. But his father, out of his own 
bitterness, could understand the boy’s gayer but not less intense 
dissatisfaction with convention. His mother wanted him to meet 
the right kind of people in New York, and she had been able 
to supply him with letters of introduction. She did not care 
for society, she told him, any more than he did, but he might 
some day be grateful— and his wife, when he had one, certainly 
would be— for friends with position and prestige. His father 
wasted no time on such advice. He was naively delighted when 
Steffens introduced Reed to Theodore Roosevelt; “I was so 
pleased to have you meet Teddy as you did. He is all man and 


the greatest American alive.” But his main concern was that 
Jack should be free to live his life as he chose. He was delighted 
by his successes: “I think and talk of you every day and love 
and am proud of you every hour.” And he was not sorry that 
his son was thinking for himself and was interested in even 
bolder plans for the emancipation of mankind than he and his 
fellow-progressives had dared to dream. 

Both Mr. and Mrs. Reed had become deeply concerned about 
money. “Debt is an awful burden,” Mrs. Reed wrote; “try to 
keep out of it.” “Do try to keep out of debt and save a little,” 
her husband added. “I have been cursed with debts all my life and 
one of my greatest griefs now is that I cannot afford to make 
you an allowance.” Speaking of his brother-in-law, he said, 
“He has no sense at all any more than have the balance of the 
Green family about money matters.” There was reason for his 
bitterness: Tod, as the Reeds called Mrs. Green, had started off, 
with the last of the Green money, on a trip around the world. 
Mr. Reed commented with the savagery that had made him 
feared at the Arlington Club: “Yesterday came a large photo- 
graph of Tod mounted on a camel, holding with a death grip 
to a Bedoum sheik, who looked as if he could cheerfully chop 
her with a scimitar. Another son of the desert, remaining care- 
fully out of reach, looks as if he had the best of his partner. 
In the background stands the Sphinx with a nauseated expres- 
sion. . . . Surely the long line of Pharaohs were in luck to have 
become only a memory before Tod invaded Egypt. If Moses 
could have subsidized her there would have been eight instead 
of seven plagues.” 

Because he knew how much generosity lay behind such ex- 
travagant diatribes, just as he knew how much deep feeling for 
mankind went into the enthusiasm for Teddy, Reed loved and 
admired his father. But only after he was back in Portland, in 
the last few days around the deathbed, did he realize how much 
had been sacrificed for him and his brother Harry. Harry had 
just been graduated from Harvard, where he had lived, as Jack 
had lived, like a rich man’s son. Perhaps Jack, thmking of 
Harry’s kind of success, his election to the right clubs won by 
unimaginative conformity, won by doing nothing, by merely 


making an infallible distinction between the right people and 
the wrong, and thinking, too, of the conclusions he had already 
reached about Harvard, may have wondered if the results 
justified the strain under which his father had at last broken. 
But such doubts could not diminish his appreciation of the 
spirit, not merely uncomplaining but even ardent and gay, in 
which the sacrifices had been made. 

C. J. Reed died on the morning of July i, 1912. John Reed, 
who had thought of him as a friend as well as an indulgent 
father, felt for the first time a bitter grief. The city of Port- 
land, though some of its leading men, as Jack knew, were 
secretly glad, paid official tribute. Reed’s friends wrote him , 
Steffens, the men at 42 Washington Square, the men on the 
American. He was restless and tortured and would sometimes 
walk all night. He tried to write down what he felt and was 
shocked at the inadequacy of his verse. At last, sometime during 
the summer, he wrote: 

Calm he lies there, 

In the brave armor he alone could bear. 

With a proud shield of Honor at his side. 

And a keen sword of wit. And when the tide 
Mysterious— when the swift, exultant Spring 
Thrills all this hillside with awakening. 

Wild-flowers will know and love him, blossoming. 

It would have been easier if he could have returned immedi- 
ately to New York, but the complexities of the family’s affairs 
kept him three months in Portland. There were old friends, of 
course, to visit, but they quickly lost their savor for him. As the 
first shock of his father’s death passed, he longed more and more 
for his city. New York. Even a trip to the headwaters of the 
Amazon, which Harry Kemp suggested, seemed less exciting 
than the wanderings about the East Side he so deeply missed. 
Finally, out of his nostalgia for 42 Washington Square, came a 
poem, humorous but tender, The Day in Bohemia. 

The book is dedicated to Lincoln Steffens— “one of us; the 
only man who understands my arguments”: 


Steffens, I hope I am doing no wrong to you 
By dedicating this doggerel song to you; 

P’raps you’ll resent 
The implied compliment, 

But light-hearted Liberty seems to belong to you. 

Even in artists I notice a tendency 
To let old Daily Bread gain the ascendancy, 
Making that petty boss 
Sort of a Setebos 

’Stead of a useful but servile dependency. 

How can an artist create his Utopia 

With his best eye on the World’s cornucopia? 

See, for example; 

There’s recompense ample 

In just writing this— let us call it--epopcea. 

Well, if these numbers recall a good year to you, 

And, as to me, certain things that are dear to you, 

Take them, you’re welcome, 

I’m with you till Hell come, 

Friend Steffens, consider me quaffing a beer to you! 

The poem describes a day: the morning at 42 Washington 
Square, then the office of the American^ then a literary tea, and 
finally an evening of argument and revelry. It introduces a 
number of parodies, some of which had been published earlier, 
but for the most part it is a faithful reflection of what Reed 
loved in the life of the Village: 

Yet we are free who live in Washington Square, 

We dare to think as Uptown wouldn’t dare, 

Blazing our nights with argument uproarious; 

What care we for a dull old world censorious 
When each is sure he’ll fashion something glorious? 

He does not forget the tenement back-yards: 



There spawn, the overworked and underpaid 
Mute thousands ;-packed in buildings badly made,— 

In stinking squalor penned,— and overflowing 
On sagging fire-escapes. 

But he is chiefly concerned with the rooms “where the im- 
mortal four spent many a blissful hour.” 

Apollo’s beams our humble house adorn. 

And wake th’ immortal four on Tuesday mom; 

Coincident, while still our ears we pound. 

The loud alarm-clock gives a horrid sound. 

With one bound, orient Osgood hits the floor. 

(Cerberean rimeclocks guard his office door.) 

Reed, with a countenance whence joy has fled. 

Drags the resisting Rogers from his bed. 

But Andrews still the downy pillow presses, 

Wliile every feature deep disgust expresses; 

And ere he once forsakes his virgin couch 
Accumulates his early morning grouch. 

At the Americm office he introduces Siddall, “the high-brow 
low-brow of the Magazine”; Albert Boy den, ’“the one who 
makes the wheels to go,” “great editor, great hustler through 
and through”; J. S. Phillips, “poet a third and two-thirds 
editor”; Albert J. Nock, “an anarchist in everything but art.” 
He describes an editorial conference on poetry, with Nock 
quoting Matthew Arnold against his quotations from Whitman, 
and the other editors calling for the police. 

The party is at the studio of the great Umbilicus; 

When young he studied on the Continent,— 

Eleven years in galleries he spent, 

Copied the Masters with minutest care. 

Learned what they ate, and how they wore their hair 

At last he knew so much, he was so deft, 

That neither vision, fire, nor self was left. 

There we find the poet who produces one verse a year, the 
imitation Celt, the sedentary vagabond, the girl whose “job in 


life is simply to inspire,” the rich man “who tried to be Mae- 
cenas and is Midas,” the artist who talks about vice, the artist 
who exists in dirt, and a dozen females— “the mild, the violent, 
the stout, the thin.” They talk— 

Cranks, cranks, cranks, cranks,— 

Blanks, blanks, blanks, blanks,— 

Talk about talking and think about thinking. 

And swallow each other without even blinking. 

When some one rises to recite a sonnet, Reed retreats, and 
arrives at 42 Washington Square in time to join the other three 
of the immortal four for dinner. Bob Hallowell arrives, and 
they meet Sam McCoy and Wolf, a young German engineer, 
on the street: 

Balloon-like, Rogers bounces on ahead, 

Then slothful Samuel, less alive than dead, 

Ozzy and Herr, with one unmeaning grin. 

Talk gibberish you’ll find no meaning in. 

Reed following, elated and erect. 

Bob Hallowell— gloves, hat and all correct. 

Old Andrews singing harshly,— music wrong,— 

Last, like a wounded snake, drags his slow length along. 
Paglieri’s self directs us, with a leer 
To the round table waiting at the rear. 

After they return to their rooms, and Hallowell lends them 
money with which to placate their landlady, friends arrive: 

Lippmann,— calm, inscrutable. 

Thinking and writing clearly, soundly, well; 

All snarls of falseness swiftly piercing through. 

His keen mind leaps like lightning to the True; 

Our all unchallenged Chief! But . . . one 
Who builds a world, and leaves out all the fun,— 
Who dreams a pageant, gorgeous, infinite. 

And then leaves all the color out of it,— 

Who wants to make the human race, and me, 
March to a geometric Q.E.D. 


A timid footstep,— enter then the eager 

Poe’s raven bang above Byronic brow, 

And Dante’s beak,— you have his picture now; 

In fact he is, though feigning not to know it, 

The popular conception of a Poet. 

The unkempt Harry Kemp now thumps our door; 

He who has girdled all the world and more. 

Free as a bird, no trammels him can bind, 

He rides a box-car as a hawk the wind. 

They argue until midnight, and finally adjourn to the Lafay- 
ette. There is the last and best of the incidental songs: 

O let us humbly bow the neck 
To George Syl-ves-ter Vi-er-eck 
Who trolled us a merry little Continental stave 
Concerning the Belly and the Phallus and the Grave- 

It would have almost raised the hair 
Of Oscar Wilde or Bau-de-laire 
To hear Mr. Vi-er-eck so frank-ly rave 
Concerning the Belly and the Phallus and the Grave— 

And in the last an-al-y-sis 
He says it nar-rows down to this: 

A fig for the favors that the high gods gave! 

Excepting the Belly and the Phallus and the Grave- 

If you have drunk Life to the lees 
You may console yourself with these; 

For me there are some things that I do not crave 
Among them the Belly and the Phallus and the Grave- 
What ho! for the Belly and the Phallus and the Grave 
The Belly and the Phallus 
And the ballad very gallus 
And the Grave! 

Late in September, Reed finally started back to New York. 
Sam McCoy, who was then in Indianapolis, had repeatedly 


urged him to stop for a visit on his way across the continent. 
Reed sent him a card from Chicago, explaining that his finan- 
cial condition would not permit any side-trips. “I’ve ridden the 
rails so far,” he wrote, “and have stayed my belly for the past 
three days with a bunch of bananas.” Whether that was liter- 
ally true or not, Reed was quite penniless when he reached 42 
Washington Square. 

Some of the group had left. Seeger was in Paris, Lippmann, 
though he was soon to return for the founding of the New 
Republic, was at the moment assisting Schenectady’s Socialist 
Mayor Lunn. Rogers was leaving for Cambridge. And Alan 
Osgood, blithest of the roommates, was dead. “He had genius,” 
Reed wrote Alan’s mother, “quite beyond us, and more than he 
himself realized. ... It was always a joy to be with Iiim. . . . We 
used to marvel at his unfailing laughter and kindness.” Reed and 
Osgood had planned to sail before the mast, around the Cape of 
Good Hope to China. Now that, like so many other plans, could 
never be carried out. McCoy wrote a poem, “Youth,” in tribute 
to Osgood and to the life that, he felt, could not be recaptured, 
and Reed, liking it, persuaded Phillips to publish it in the Ameri- 

■ Reed, too, felt that youth was slipping by, but for the moment 
he was happy at being back in New York. Edward Hunt was 
now working on the American and living at Number 42, and in 
the winter Reed was startled to run across another classmate, 
Robert Edmond Jones, thin and hungry, wandering from im- 
presario to impresario. He and Hunt took Jones in, called upon 
Hallowell and other friends for assistance, and armed him for 
the conflict with New York. 

Reed kept a card catalog of the manuscripts he sent to the 
magazines, labeled “Posthumous and Juvenile Works of J. S. 
Reed, Bart.” There were fewer rejection slips now. Even some 
of the earlier stories, brought out and refurbished, were taken 
by editors who had learned to know the name of Reed. On the 
whole he had reason for satisfaction, but, after the elation of 
being back in the city dwindled away, he was more discontented 
than he had been since the morning in Paris when he woke up 
and found himself five years older. Stelfens encouraged him: 


“You haven’t yet found your form, your lay,’ your line,’ as 
you wish to express it.” When he did find his line, Steffens as- 
sured him, nothing could stop him. Reed was not so certain. 

There was not much that he had published that seemed to 
him representative of what he had wanted to do. His articles 
for the American had, with the exception of the reminiscence 
of William James and the tribute to Copey, been routine exer- 
cises. The pair of short stories in the Century about the stupid 
but lucky M. Vidoq were mechanical, though he had enjoyed 
elaborating the humorous details and even made a third attempt 
with the same formula. He had exploited the same tricks of face- 
tiousness in the two stories Willard Huntington Wright, who 
had been a classmate in their freshman year, had taken for the 
Smart Set. “Overboard” had been given the stamp of Julian 
Street’s deft Saturday Evening Post manner. “The Swimmers” 
was derivative melodrama. 

He felt better, of course, about the poetry. “The Wanderer 
to His Heart’s Desire” and “Deep-Water Song,” were, it is 
true, a little too much after the fashion of Richard Hovey and 
Bliss Carman, but they were firmer and fresher than anything 
he had written in the same vein in college. Certain occasional 
poems he had done for the American— ^ April” “A Song for 
May,” and “June in the City”— were clean and pleasant. He had 
grown oratorical in “Revolt,” which Viereck’s International 
had taken: 

Oh, there is peace in wrong-doing, 

Joy in the blasphemous thing, 

Sweet is the taste of a prodigal waste,— 

Lawless the songs that we sing. 

And you, who are holy, have made it,— 

Have ticketed men and their ways,— 

Have taken the zest from all that was best 
In these contemptible days. 

In a few poems he had gone beyond Vagabondia and Bohemia. 
The love of New York, city of enchantment, almost inarticulate 
as yet, had reached partial expression in “A Hymn to Manhat- 
tan” and in “The Foundations of a Skyscraper”: 


Clamor of unknown tongues, and hiss of arc 
Clashing and blending; screech of wheel on wheel,— 
Naked, a giant’s back, tight-muscled, stark. 

Glimpse of mighty shoulder, etched in steel. 

Even his romanticism achieved maturity in the new and re- 
sourceful resonance of his lines. “Tamburlaine,” which he called 
“an organ prelude,” begins: 

A voiceless shaking of the air . . . 

Then a low shuddering of sound. 

Vibrant, thunderous, like the profound 
Pulsation of great wings. O rare— 

In the high-vaulted transept’s gloom 
Wakes sonant echoing, and the deep 
Tone-breakers gather ponderously and leap 
From beam to beam, like sullen boom 
Of lazy summer thunder. See! 

On the bare rock-rimmed Scythian plain 
The swarthy shepherd Tamburlaine . . . 

And it ends: 

Falls like a sea-wind at sundown 
The full-toned sonorous battle-chant; 

Yet the sound-surf reverberant 
Rolls the dim-springing nave adown. 

Rolls thunderous— subsiding— low— 

In a burnt, treeless land where loom 
The world's high mountains, lies a tomb— 

Vibrant the shuddering tremolo— 

A tomb half -hid with drifting sand. 

Nameless— in Samarkand. 

In “Sangar” romanticism served the purposes of allegory. The 
poem, which Lincoln Steffens insisted on regarding as “a fierce 
poem denouncing me,” was meant as a tribute to his settlement 
of the MacNamara case. In the midst of battle— 


leaps one into the press— 

The Hell ’twixt front and front— 

Sangar, bloody and torn of dress, 

(He has borne the brunt.) 

“Hold!” cries, “Peace! God’s Peace! 

Heed ye what Christus says—” 

And the wild battle gave surcease 
In amaze. 

Sangar tells the men on both sides that they are brothers. He is 
called a blasphemer by the priest, and is slain by his own son, 
and the war goes on. 

Oh, there was joy in Heaven when Sangar came. 

Sweet Mary wept, and bathed and bound his wounds. 

And God the Father healed him of despair. 

And Jesus gripped his hand, and laughed and laughed. 

His poetry was praised by poets he respected, Edwin Arlmg- 
ton Robinson, Louis Untermeyer, Sara Teasdale, Harriet Mon- 
roe. Albert Jay Nock, though he might quarrel with Reed on 
esthetic principles, had no doubt that his colleague was a poet. 
Percy MacKaye wrote warmly about “Sangar,” and Reed re- 
plied: “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your note appre- 
ciating my ‘Sangar.’ No one has ever before written me so about 
anything I ever did. It opens up vast possibilities and stimulates 
my imagination to conceive a time when I shall be able to tell 
people a little part of the glorious things I see. Every day of 
my life I see more of them.” 

Reed was in dead earnest about his poetry, and it distressed 
him to realize that poetry could never win for him the kind of 
success that he was determined to achieve. The practical men 
of the Dutch Treat Club told him that poetry was dead. He 
knew that they were wrong. He had read nothing as yet of 
Frost’s or Sandburg’s, but he realized that Robinson was trying 
to say something that had not been said, and he picked up and 
read with curiosity and satisfaction Vachel Lindsay’s Rhymes 
to be Traded for Bread. And he was beginning to understand 
what was wrong with poetry. “I have found,” he wrote Harriet 
Monroe, “that among men of whatever class, if they are deeply 


stirred by emotion, poetry appeals; as, indeed, all the arts ap- 
peal. The apathetic, mawkishly-religious middle class are our 
enemies. . . . Art must cease, I think, to be for the esthetic en- 
joyment of a few highly sensitive minds. It must go back to its 
original sources.” 

The magazine editors were degrading poetry. That, he dis- 
covered, was not all they were degrading. In the spring of 1912 
he had written a little sketch of New York life called “Where 
the Heart Is,” the first of many such sketches he was to write, 
born out of his nocturnal adventures and the love and exaltation 
that the city roused in him. It was not a neat empty tale with a 
surprise ending; it was just a story of Martha, who had left the 
Haymarket, where she was a dancing partner, to sec Europe. 
She had done much respectable sight-seeing, and then, when 
her funds were low, had become the mistress of an amorous and 
wealthy Portuguese, who had taken her to Rio de Janeiro and 
kept her in luxury. But she could not forget New York, and 
back she came to the Haymarket. 

One editor after another rejected the story. Finally one of 
them explained; “A magazine is bought by the year. The father 
of the children, counting on its past record of avoiding the 
treatment of sex problems, allows the magazine to come into the 
house and to lie carelessly on the library table. His children 
read it, even before he looks it over himself. He counts on us 
to be the censor. And that is the main reason why magazines 
must be very careful about the points of view they present in 
their stories. You have been working at the American; you 
ought to know their point of view. You can’t over-ride such a 
proposition.” Such a theme, he concluded, could be treated 
only by a Daudet, a Flaubert, or a de Maupassant: “The very 
delicacy of the problem renders necessary the highest form of 
literary skill.” 

Reed understood. “Where the Heart Is” was his first con- 
tribution to the Masses. 

But John Reed loved success. He was flattered by being men- 
tioned in F. P. A.’s column. He was very proud of beino' a 
member of the Dutch Treat Club. Irvin Cobb and James Mont- 



gomery Flagg called him by his first name. He talked about lit- 
erary markets and prices with Julian Street and the Irwin brothers. 
He listened to the jests of Tom Masson and Charles Hanson 
Towne. He knew how much Owen Johnson was paid per word 
and Charles Dana Gibson per picture. They represented success, 
tangible, measurable, demonstrable success. 

When he had a chance to do a play for the Dutch Treat 
Club, to be produced at its annual dinner at Delmonico’s, he 
was as excited as he had been when he made the football team 
at Morristown or the Lampoon at Harvard. Bill Daly, one of 
the editors of Everybody's, composed the music. Reed wrote 
the words, and, despite the impressiveness of their reputations, 
would not allow the professional humorists of the club to alter 
a line. He hectored the performers as disrespectfully as he had 
bullied the Harvard cheering section. It was his show, and he 
insisted on doing it his own way. But he was very proud that he 
had been asked to do it, and he invited many of his friends to 
the dinner at which it was produced. 

Everymagazine, an hmnorality Play was the fruit of two years 
in the American office, two years of acceptances and rejections, 
two years of Dutch Treat Club luncheons. Much of what Reed 
wrote about the magazines was what every Dutch Treater felt. 
No one, for example, could be anything but jubilant when 
Charles Hanson Towne, dressed in bombazine with drooping 
curls and knitting needles, representing Century, Scribner's, and 
Harper's, sang: 

You are mistresses of Mammon; 

I’m a literary virgin— 

All the warmness of a salmon. 

All the passion of a sturgeon. 

I’m aristocratic, very. 

I’m a live obituary 
Of the giants literary 
Who have given up the ghost. 

In illuminating snatches 
Since the spring of Sixty-one 
I’ve been publishing dispatches 
From the battle of Bull Run. 


With life I do not bother, 

I’m caviar to most; 

In fact I am the Father, 

The Son, and Holy Ghost. 

Of refinement I’m a symbol 
On your literary table; 

All of culture in a thimble 
By the new Atlantic cable. 

And though Congress does not heed me, 

And the public docs not read me, 

I’m convinced the people need me 
From the Hudson to the Coast. 

0 when Trollope kicked the bucket 
And when Dickens was no more 

1 had half a mind to chuck it 
Till I found the Civil War. 

Aristocratic rather. 

Exclusiveness my boast; 

In fact I am the Father, 

The Son, and Holy Ghost. 

And the wits of New York must have relished the Outlook^s 

I’m a moderate reformer 
Just because reform’s the thing. 

I’ve a practical religion 
And my hat is in the ring. 

I’m a catch-as-can uplifter 

With a strong belief in jail 

It’s a policy that gathers in the kale. 

I’m the blooming Christian Herald 
With the Christian part in hock. 
I’m the Homely Ladies’ Journal 
All excepting Mister Bok. 

I’m the Rev’rend Doctor Parkhurst, 
I’m all that sort of chaps. 

In fact, I’m Hamilton W.— Perhaps! 



It was amusing when McClure^ s complained that it had ‘‘raised 
so much heir’ and “done it so well” that there was nothing 
left to say, or when the American explained how to blend 
reading matter and advertisements. The Cosmopolitan was fair 

Every month I’m full of spice 

And naughty Robert Chambers makes it nice. 

Some lingerie, a glimpse of stocking. 

Lips unlocking, nothing shocldng. 

And Gibson hints at hidden beauty, 

Lovers’ booty, tutti frutti. 

Read me once and I’ll bet I can 
Refresh the tired business man. 

It was a little more pointed to sing: 

An honest magazine 
Needn’t tremble to be seen 
Abowing to a business man 
And taking off his hat. 

And it isn’t so surprising 

That we chase the advertising 

But alas we’ve got a secret worse than that. 

The grand finale was entitled “The Freedom of the Press.” 
There are such lines as 

A silly tale I’ve heard 
That round the town is flying 
That every monthly organ 
Is owned by J. P. Morgan. 

Now isn’t that absurd? 

Somebody must be lying. 

And again— 

We’re all agreed, I guess, 
In this ourselves we flatter, 


No influence external 
Controls the monthly journal. 

It is our great success, 

Unbiased reading matter. 

The chorus goes— 

It must not be inferred 
That wealth is what we’re after. 

We greet that gibe absurd 
With supercilious laughter. 

The criminal and grafter, 

From wickedness deterred. 

Revere the printed word. 

Revere the printed word. 

Of course none of it was taken as serious satire. Everybody 
congratulated Reed, who sold copies of The Day in Bohemia 
and grew shrill-voiced and happy as the liquor and the praise 
went to his head. But the suspicion persisted in the minds of 
some members of the club that they had somehow been be- 
trayed. Samuel Merwin was to grumble for twenty years, “The 
trouble with Jack Reed was that he wasn’t housebroken.” And 
Julian Street would save his venom until, ten years after Reed’s 
death, the Saturday Evening Post would pay him well for put- 
ting it down on paper. Just as, in college, Reed had irritated the 
men his ambitions should have counseled him to please, so, 
among the high-paid hacks of New York, the eagerness for 
success clashed with some impulse of defiance, and defiance 

Profession: Poet 

I T took John Reed a surprisingly long time to discover that 
paying magazines get what they pay for. He could not learn 
from the experience of others; he had to find out for him- 
self. What he had wanted on his arrival in New York in the 
spring of 19 ii was success, in terms of both money and recog- 
nition, and he wanted it so badly that some of his friends were 
worried. But he wanted it on his OAvn terms. His integrity was 
not a matter of articulate*principles; it was, rather, a deep-rooted 
stubbornness, an almost physiological necessity to be himself. 
When he had learned to fashion salable commodities, and the 
lust to see his name in print had been gratified, he began to 
wonder if this was all he wanted; and what people called his 
vanity was strong enough to tell him that it wasn’t. There was 
no satisfaction in winning applause for conforming to the stand- 
ards of others, he once more discovered; the only recognition 
that counted was recognition for what he really was. Two years 
of experimentation were necessary to convince him, but in the 
end he was convinced. 

Even after he had learned his lesson, he did not abandon the 
idea of the sort of success that the Dutch Treat Club appreci- 
ated. He adopted the simple and familiar compromise of doing 
two kinds of writing: the kind the editors likeid and the kind 
he liked. He knew the dangers of such a division of purpose: 
he had once written a story called “Success” about a young 
man who, beginning with a consecrated determination to write 
an epic in his spare time, ended by rejoicing in the adaptation of 
lines from his masterpiece to the purposes of a pink pill adver- 


tisement. But he could not believe that these dangers existed 
for him. 

For the publication of what he wanted to write, there was, 
fortunately, the Masses, which Piet Vlag had founded in Janu- 
ary, ipir, as “an outgrowth of the cooperative side of Socialist 
activity.” Thomas Seltzer, the first editor, drew heavily on the 
fiction of Europe, printing stories by Tolstoy, Chirikov, Suder- 
mann, and Bjorkman. Many of the muckrakers and Socialist in- 
tellectuals contributed— John Spargo, Gustavus Myers, George 
R. Kirkpatrick, W. J. Ghent, and Eugene Wood-and Art 
Young, Charles Winter, and Maurice Becker did cartoons. 

During 1911 and 1912 the magazine limped aimlessly from 
left to right. Horatio Winslow succeeded Seltzer as editor and 
filled the magazine with his own stories. Piet Vlag injected 
heavy propaganda for the cooperatives. All sorts of persons 
contributed occasional articles or stories: Thomas L. Masson, 
Inez Haynes Gillmore, Samuel Hopkins Adams, Will Irwin. 
Except for attacks on the direct action theories of the I.W.W. 
and defenses of parliamentarianism by Eugene Wood, Ellis O. 
Jones, Victor Berger, and Walter Lippmann, the Masses was 
indifferent to economic and political struggles, and even in liter- 
ature it was a long way from the vanguard. 

Piet Vlag, whose sacrifices had kept the Masses alive, became 
discouraged. Though the magazine sold for five cents a copy, 
the circulation remained low. Finally, in the autumn of 1912, 
he proposed to merge it with a suffragist paper in Chicago. But 
the magazine, despite all its wavering, had succeeded in creating 
a group of writers and artists that had some sort of common 
purpose. Of the founders, Eugene Wood, Hayden Carruth, 
Ellis 0. Jones, Thomas Seltzer, Horatio Winslow, Art Young, 
and Charles and Alice Winter remained loyal. Inez Haynes Gill- 
more and Maurice Becker had become firm supporters. Mary 
Heaton Vorse and John Sloan had begun to contribute. Two 
of the workers in the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, Leroy 
Scott and William English Walling, were interested. A num- 
ber of these men and women met in the Winters’ studio and 
decided, at Art Young’s suggestion, to invite Max Eastman, 


until recently an instructor in esthetics at Columbia, to become 
responsible editor of a rejuvenated Masses. 

The magazine sought to be the expression, on the highest 
literary and artistic level, of the insurgent spirit in American 
life. Out of the middle-class revolt at the turn of the century, 
with its muckraking and its trust-busting, its progressive gov- 
ernors and its single-tax mayors, had come a great hope. The 
renaissance that John Reed had observed at Harvard had been 
only one seething crest on a great wave. The new insurgency 
was marked neither by unity nor clarity, but it had vigor and 
it was ubiquitous. Scarcely a writer or artist who was to have 
importance in the twenties was untouched by it. It found polit- 
ical expression in anarchism as well as Socialism, and single- 
taxers were allied with suffragists, free-lovers, and birth-con- 
trollers. It owed much to the discovery that urban life made 
possible the escape from provincial Victorianism, and yet it was 
in no small part a revolt against the standardization that was 
supposed to have been wrought by the machine and the city. 
Vachel Lindsay and Sherwood Anderson, dreading industrial- 
ism, were as much a part of it as Carl Sandburg, who sang the 
beauty of industry. It welcomed any attack on convention, and 
the same men and women wrote for the Masses and for Menck- 
en’s Smart Set; but it made room for the Puritanism of Upton 
Sinclair and the piety of the Christian Sociahsts. It subscribed 
to the principles of realism in art, but its politics tended towards 
the romantic. It had the seriousness of strong convictions and 
the gayety of great hopes. 

John Reed was more a part of this than he knew. He did not 
suspect how many people shared his belief that literature must 
be emancipated from the stupidity and triviality of the bour- 
geoisie and from the commercialism of the profit-making mag- 
azines. The spell that New York cast upon him in his mi dnig ht 
adventures was felt by other young writers. He was not the 
only one who loved the bravery of the poor and grew indig- 
nant at their suffering. Nor was he the only son of a Bull Moose 
father who laughed at the trumpetings of Teddy and pledged 
his allegiance to Eugene Debs and Big Bill Haywood. 

When he heard of the new plans for the Masses, John Reed 


wanted to help. Eastman told him that stories were needed, and 
he immediately thought of the little sketches he had written 
with so much affection and pleasure and had had so persistently 
rejected. Eastman praised his stories, selected “Where the Heart 
Is” for the January issue, and urged Reed to send something 
every month. The realization, at the very beginning of the new 
venture, that there were men like Reed, men who wanted and 
needed the Masses, was one of the things that made the board 
of editors willing to take up the burden of debt and go on. 

With the March issue he was listed among the contributing 
editors. In the meantime he had drafted a statement of purpose. 
“We refuse to commit ourselves to any course of action,” he 
said, “except this: to do with the Masses exactly what wc please. 
No magazine has ever done that in this country and preserved 
a wide influence. The Masses is neither a closet magazine nor a 
quarterly philosophic review. But we have perfect faith that 
there exists in America a wide public, alert, alive, bored with 
the smug procession of magazine platitudes, to whom What We 
Please will be as a fresh wind.” It was the Reed note, with just 
a touch of swagger in such phrases as, “Wc don’t even intend 
to conciliate our readers.” He paid his respects to the American 
and the other magazines for which he had written: “Poems, 
stories, and drawings rejected by the capitalistic press on account 
of their excellence will find a welcome in this magazine.” De- 
fiance was the rock on which the Masses was to be built. 

But the defiance was not to be a meaningless gesture. “The 
broad purpose of the Masses,” he wrote, “is a social one: to 
everlastingly attack old systems, old morals, old prejudices— the 
whole weight of outworn thought that dead men have saddled 
upon us-and to set up new ones in their places. Standing on the 
common sidewalk, we intend to lunge at spectres— with a rapier 
rather than a broad-axe, with frankness rather than innuendo. 
We intend to be arrogant, impertinent, in bad taste, but not 
vulgar. We will be bound by no one creed or theory of social 
reform, but will express them all, providing they be radical. . . . 
Sensitive to all new winds that blow, never rigid in a single 
view or phase of life, such is our ideal for the Masses.” It was 
a statement to which all the young radicals of 1913, all those 



who wanted more than Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, 
could subscribe. “And if,” John Reed added, “we want to change 
our minds about it— well, why shouldn’t we?” 

Although the statement was somewhat altered before it ap- 
peared in the magazine, Reed had expressed the spirit of the 
enterprise with considerable exactness. It called itself “a revolu- 
tionary not a reform magazine,” but except for Max Eastman’s 
editorials under the heading “Knowledge and Revolution” and 
William English Walling’s page of news about the Socialist 
movement, it devoted little space to discussion of radical prin- 
ciples. What boiled up on its pages was exactly the kind of 
chaotic revolt that John Reed felt inside himself, a powerful 
dissatisfaction and an unformulated hope. At first the artists— 
Art Young, Maurice Becker, and John Sloan— gave more effec- 
tive expression to this insurgency than any of the writers, but 
gradually, in poems by Arturo Giovannitti, Louis Untermeyer, 
and Harry Kemp, in Reed’s sketches, and in Howard Brubaker’s 
paragraphs, there was a literature that matched the art. 

The editors, especially the younger ones, enjoyed their work. 
Untermeyer and Reed had been entrusted with the responsibility 
of selecting the poetry, and they shared their discoveries. Un- 
termeyer wrote Reed: “Victor Jorbert is a find, a gem of the 
first water and a poet of purest ray serene. He is of the Elect, 
the Cognoscenti. I hail him and thank you for introducing him 
to me. There are lines in his stirring ode (or is it a march) that 
seem influenced by J. Gordon Coogler, but this is petty carp- 
ing. I believe Mr. Jorbert is worthy of a place next to that Mr. 
Kennedy whose noble lines to ‘Bergson of Dynamic Mind’ are 
(to me) immortal: 

Read Ida Tarbell’s words; all noble deeds record; 

Learn of Dr. E. B. Davis in New York at Bedford. 

What a couplet! • I applaud the sentiment no less than the music 
—and gnash my metaphoric bicuspids in awful envy.” 

By the time Everymagazine had been produced and the great 
men of the Dutch Treat Club had had time to reflect on its im- 
plications, John Reed was associated with a group of men and 


women who were interested in something more than markets. 
It had taken him two years to do it, but at last he was looldng 
straight towards the future. 

Mabel Dodge came home from Florence, where she had spent 
three years in expensively remaking a villa. “Remember, it is 
ugly in America,” she sobbed to her son. “We have left every- 
thing worth while behind us. America is all machinery and 
money-making and factories— it is ugly, ugly, ugly!” But she 
decided to make the best of it. She devoted her energies and 
her showmanship to staging the famous exhibition that intro- 
duced post-impressionist and cubist art to America, and, in her 
home at 23 Fifth Avenue, she created a salon, to which artists, 
actors, anarchists, Socialists, I.W.W.’s, celebrities, eccentrics, 
and nonentities came. Hutchins Hapgood, Arthur Lee, Andrew 
Dasburg, Marsden Hartley, Lee Simonson, Lincoln Steffens, 
Charles Demuth, Jo Davidson, Helen Westley, Emma Goldman, 
they all were her guests. There was food and drink and ciga- 
rettes, and sometimes lively arguments, and always there was 
Mabel Dodge, possessive, adroit, sensitive. 

Of course John Reed went to Mabel Dodge’s. Half of the 
editors of the Masses and all the members of the Liberal Club 
were regular attendants. He went and enjoyed the show. His 
life had become almost as full as it had been at Harvard. There 
was his paid work at the American and his volunteer work on 
the Masses. He had written a three-act play and had a novel in 
hand. He was called upon at regular intervals to try to straighten 
out the financial difficulties of the Reeds and Greens. In the early 
spring he and Bobby Jones took a walking trip, and, being 
caught in the rain, found shelter in an empty house. Reported 
by neighbors to the police, they were saved from jail only be- 
cause Reed remembered that an old Portland friend, Benjamin 
Wistar Morris, the architect, lived nearby. 

In such a life an evening at Mabel Dodge’s- was only an in- 
cident. But then one night Big Bill Haywood was there and 
talked about the Paterson strike, telling why the silk-workers 
had gone out, and what had happened to them. Reed liked the 
calm and unaffected way he talked to the strange gathering of 


society women and Bohemians. This was the candor, the in- 
souciance, John Reed admired. 

He wanted to see Haywood in action, and he wanted to see 
the strike. He went to Paterson early in the mor nin g of April 
28. It was cold, and there was a light rain. At first the streets 
were empty, but a score of policemen soon appeared. Workers 
began to gather on the porches of the company houses that 
lined the street across from the mill. To escape the r ain Reed 
went onto one of the porches, and used the excuse to begin 
talking with the three or four men who were standing there. 
He was amazed at the calmness with which people went about 
the eating of breakfast. 

Policemen broke up a group of men who had taken shelter 
under the canopy of a saloon. Two detectives arrested a striker, 
and there was some booing. Some boys yelled at the detectives, 
and a policeman kicked them. An officer came to the porch on 
which Reed was standing and ordered the men to disperse. 
They said that they lived in the house, and the officer, order- 
ing them to get inside, turned to Reed and told him to move 
on. Reed informed Officer McCormick that he was there by 
permission of the occupants and had a right to stay there. 

“Never mind,” said the officer. “Do what I teU you. Come 
off of there, and come off damn quick.” 

Reed said that he wouldn’t. McCormick seized him by the 
arm, and jerked him to the sidewalk, where another policeman 
took his other arm. “Now you get to hell off this street,” he 

“I won’t get off this street or any other street,” Reed an- 
swered. “If I’m breaking any law, you arrest me.” 

McCormick didn’t want to arrest him, and said so profanely. 
As politely as he could, Reed said, “I’ve got your number. Now 
will you give me your name.?” 

“Yes,” McCormick bellowed, “and I’ve got your number. 
I’ll arrest you.” 

Reed was taken to the jail and put in a cell, about four feet 
by seven, in which eight pickets had recently been kept for 
twenty-four hours without food or water. In a few minutes 
forty pickets were brought into the jail, and Reed could hear 


them singing and cheering. Before long he was led into the 
court of Recorder Carroll, a man “with the intelligent, cruel, 
merciless face of the ordinary police court magistrate.” He was 
permitted to tell his own story, and then McCormick recited a 
tale that, Reed felt, he was by no means smart enough to have 
invented himself. Carroll asked Reed his occupation. 

“Poet,” said Reed. 

“Twenty days,” said Carroll. 

Carlo Tresca, the fiery Italian strike-leader was in one of 
the cells of the Passaic County jail, and was explaining the class 
struggle to his Negro cellmate, when John Reed was brought 
in. He was so obviously respectable that Trcsca was suspicious. 
He told Reed who he was, but he would not respond to the 
warm greeting with which the stranger hailed the name of 
Tresca. When Reed persisted in asking questions about the 
strike, Tresca’s suspicions were confirmed, and Ite refused to 
talk. The three of them spent the night in bewilderment and 
hostility, Reed lying awake and smoking one cigarette after 

The next morning Bill Playwood, who had been arrested and 
was being held without any charge, discovered Reed, thought 
he was there as a reporter, and asked him what his assignment 
was. He was amused and pleased when he learned the truth, 
and he took Reed around to introduce him to the strikers, in- 
cluding the apologetic Tresca. Quinlan, Haywood, and Tresca 
were all in jail at the time, and there were some fifty strikers. 

Reed was particularly interested in the silk-workers, but he 
did not fail to study the normal functions of a county jail— “a 
place, he wrote, “that takes in weak men and turns them out 
weaker.” The food was worse than that on the Bostonian: the 
bread stale and soggy; the salt and pepper boxes full of insects; 
the soup rank with decayed vegetables, spoiled meat, and dead 
vermin. (“You just gotta be careful they don’t get in your 
spoon,” the prisoners told him.) Fourteen hours out of every 
twenty-four were spent in the verminous cell, and there was no 
escape from the noise of the prison or from the stench of the 
open toilets. 

Except for the strikers, the men in the jail seemed hopelessly 


debauched. There were men who, reduced to begging, had 
been sentenced to six months or a year for first offenses. An 
insane man and a man far advanced in venereal disease were 
locked up with the others. An idiot boy of eighteen was kept in 
the jail after his father’s arrest because nobody knew what to 
do with him. A normal, intelligent boy of seventeen, who had 
been convicted of stealing a bicycle, was associating with con- 
firmed criminals. Many of them were sick men, and the treat- 
ment the doctor gave, on his rare visits, was farcical. Crap 
games and cockroach races were the chief forms of amusement. 
The guards and the trustees were eager to be bribed, and men 
with a little cash could get whatever they wanted, from decent 
food to cocaine. 

It would have been wholly depressing if it had not been for 
the silk-workers, who, in their variety of languages, educated 
John Reed in the events of the strike. It was the second strike 
in two years, and it had been going on for more than two months 
when Reed heard Haywood talking about it at Mabel Dodge’s. 
Within two weeks after the strike call, more than twenty thou- 
sand men and women were out. The picket lines stood firm in 
the face of organized terror. There were daily arrests; picket 
lines were charged and strikers clubbed. On April 19 Valentme 
Modestino was shot, and fifteen thousand strikers attended his 
funeral. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, fresh from the victories of 
Lawrence, stirred the workers of Paterson to passionate loyalty 
and indomitable courage. Haywood’s calm, masterful leadership 
gave them confidence. When school-teachers spoke against the 
strike, the children picketed the schools. The leaders were ar- 
rested again and again, but the picket lines stood firm. 

Reed was in jail only four days. The New York papers made 
more fuss about one reporter. Police Captain McBride said bit- 
terly, than they had about the scores of strikers he had jailed. 
Robert Rogers, writing with condescending humor to Edward 
Hunt, was, for all his facetiousness, quite accurate in saying that 
the judge was a fool and that Reed would be twenty times the 
menace to Paterson law and order he had been before he was 
arrested. Hunt, in the meantime, was not only looking out for 
Reed’s comfort in the matter of food and cigarettes; he was 


working for his release. Somewhat regretfully, Jolin Reed left 
Sheriff Radcliff’s hotel. 

He had been there long enough to learn a great deal, tie 
really saw and felt what for a long time he had theoretically 
known: “that the manufacturers get all they can out of labor, 
pay as little as they must, and permit the existence of great 
masses of unemployed in order to keep wages down; that the 
forces of the state are on the side of property against the prop- 
ertyless.” He also intensified his feeling that the Socialist Party 
was “duller than religion and almost as little in touch with 
labor.” When an Italian weaver wanted to know why the Social- 
ists were not helping in the Paterson strike, Reed, already a parti- 
san, told him that “a good share of the Socialist Party and the 
American Federation of Labor have forgotten all about the class 
struggle, and seem to be playing a little game with capitalistic 
rules, called ‘Button, button, who’s got the vote?’ ” 

Most important of all, he discovered the gayety and courage 
and fineness of militant workers. “When it came time for me to 
go out,” he wrote, “I said good-bye to all those gentle, alert, 
brave men, ennobled by something greater than themselves. 
They were the strike— not Bill Haywood, not Gurley Flynn, 
not any other individual. And if they should lose all their lead- 
ers, other leaders would arise from the ranks, even as they rose, 
and the strike would go on! Think of it! Twelve years they have 
been losing strikes— twelve solid years of disappointments and 
incalculable suffering. They must not lose again.” 

Reed could think of nothing but Paterson. Though he was as 
yet a hesitant and embarrassed public speaker, he addressed meet- 
ings on behalf of the strike. He not only went again and again 
to Paterson, but he insisted on his friends’ going— Mabel Dodge 
and Hunt and Bobby Jones and Walter Lippmann. Haywood 
got him to speak to the strikers. He found, however, that there 
was something he could do that was more effective than speak- 
ing: he could teach them to sing. With all the tricks he had 
learned as cheer-leader, and with the perfect self-abandonment 
of which he was capable, he led them in singing their own songs, 
and he taught them new songs, Harvard songs with Paterson 


words. He took particular pleasure in teaching them the song 
that the Institute of 1776 had adopted as its own. It had origi- 
nated, he discovered, in the French revolution, and it tickled him 
to be giving it back, after the snobs had had it for more than 
a century, to the people to whom it belonged. Sometimes as 
many as thirty thousand people would follow Reed in shouting 
out “The Marseillaise” or “Sohdarity Forever.” They loved the 
singing, these warm-blooded men of Paterson, and they loved 
John Reed. One Italian said to him, “You make us to be happy.” 

He could talk of nothing but the strike. When F. P. A. 
had lunch with him, our own Samuel Pepys recorded: “He told 
me how great a man is Bill Haywood, and it may be as Jack 
saith. Also he told me that the Industrial Workers of the World 
are sorely misjudged and that the tayles in the publick prints of 
their blood-thirstiness are lies ‘told by the scriveners. And out 
of it all I wish I did know how to appraise what is true and 
what is false, but I am too ignorant, and ill-fitted to judge 
truly.” ' 

Reed wanted to do more than talk. Police terror was becom- 
ing fiercer. During a striker’s trial one girl in the audience was 
given sixty days for smiling, and another thirty days for gasping 
at the sentence. There were more and more heads battered, more 
and more arrests, longer and longer sentences. At last, in the 
middle of May, the idea of the Paterson pageant was bom. Percy 
MacKaye, whose experience with pageants Reed respected, en- 
thusiastically urged him to go ahead. 

For three weeks Reed worked at nothing else, sleeping little 
and then with his clothes on. The leaders were divided: Hay- 
wood favored the plan, but Tresca at first thought it was im- 
possible. The strikers were delighted. Reed met with a large 
group of them, and, though they spoke at least a dozen differ- 
ent languages, managed to understand and be understood. Out 
of a single sentence came the theme of the pageant: “We were 
frightened when we went in,” said one of the girls, describing 
the first day of the strike, “but we were singing when we came 
out.” Out of other such hints the pageant grew. 

Reed plunged back and forth between Paterson and New 
York. In Paterson the rehearsals promised success. Responding 


to Reed’s enthusiasm, the strikers evolved the details of each 
scene, lost their self-consciousness, and felt themselves re-enact- 
ing the stirring events of their own drama. In New York plans 
moved too slowly. Mabel Dodge, Jessie Ashley, Hutchins Hap- 
good, Edward Hunt, Ernest Poole, and others set about the 
raising of funds, but only enough could be secured to rent 
Madison Square Garden for one night. They did what they 
could, but preparations were slow. 

Reed, paying little attention to practical details, concentrated 
on plans for production. Bobby Jones was drafted to design the 
scenery, a panorama of Paterson factories, and he did a poster 
of a crouched, shouting, challenging workman that was to ap- 
pear year after year on I.W.W. publications. A runway was 
built so that the strikers could march on and off the platform. 
On the afternoon of June 7, a thousand strikers were brought 
to New York for the final rehearsal. 

New York was tense. The cry of sabotage had been raised 
against the I.W.W., and the newspapers were raging against 
what Sheriff Julius Harburger called “sedition, treasonable ut- 
terances, un-American doctrines, advocating sabotage, fulmina- 
tion of paranoiacal ebullitions, inflammatory, hysterical unsound 
doctrines.” Harburger sat in a box near the stage. He wanted to 
forbid the playing of “The Marseillaise,” but, as he regretfully 
told reporters, a judge had ruled that it was legal. He had to 
content himself with declaring, “Just let anybody say one word 
of disrespect to the flag, and I will stop the show so quickly it 
will take their breath away.” 

An hour before the pageant began, the streets on every .side 
of the Garden were full. The cheaper seats were all taken, but 
the rows that were priced at a dollar or two dollars a seat were 
largely vacant. A hurried conference decided that the crowd 
would be admitted at a quarter apiece. It was nearly an hour, 
filled with the shouting of sellers of pamphlets and the confusion 
of the entering crowd, tiefore the pageant could begin. 

“The pageant,” said the program, “represents a battle between 
the working class and the capitalist class conducted by the In- 
dustrial Workers of the World It is a conflict between two 

social forces.” The first scene showed the mills at six o’clock 



on a February morning. The mill whistle sounded the call to 
work. Bent and shivering, the workers entered the mills, and 
the sound of the looms began. Then there was silence, followed 
by the mounting passion of “The Marseillaise” as the striking 
workers marched from the factories. In a second episode brutal 
police clubbed pickets, and Modestino was hit by a hired gun- 
man’s bullet. At Modestino’s funeral, after the strikers placed 
evergreen twigs and red carnations upon his coffin, Flynn, 
Tresca, and Haywood spoke. A great mass meeting at Haledon 
and a May Day procession followed. The hungry strikers sent 
their children away to be cared for by the workers of other 
cities. Finally the strikers shouted their support for Haywood’s 
demand for an eight-hour day and sang “The Internationale.” 

The audience, many of whom had wept at the funeral of 
Modestino, rose and sang with the strikers. It was, to a greater 
extent than any one had anticipated, a workers’ audience, and 
they went out from the Garden with a new faith in themselves 
and their class. The intellectuals saw visions. Susan Glaspell 
dreamed of what the theatre might be. Hutchins Hapgood felt 
the promise of a new order in which “self-expression in in- 
dustry and art among the masses may become a rich reality, 
spreading a human glow over the whole of humanity,” an order 
“from which we shall all be gainers— in real life, in justice, in art, 
in love.” Even the reporters were impressed, and the next day’s 
papers spoke of the pageant with respect, though editorials sub- 
sequently pointed out that it was produced “under the direction 
of a destructive organization opposed in spirit and antagonistic 
in action to all the forces which have upbuilded this republic,” 
and that its motive was “to inspire hatred, to induce violence 
which may lead to the tearing down of the civil state and the 
institution of anarchy.” 

Only the thousands in Paterson were disappointed, for, three 
weeks later, Jessie Ashley and Fred Boyd made their report and 
announced, not the huge profit that everyone who had seen the 
crowd in the Garden expected, but a deficit. Profits can not be 
made from single performances when scenery costs hundreds 
of dollars and other expenses are in proportion. But the strikers 
could think only of the dwindled funds that the pageant should 


have replenished. What Paterson had lost the working class had 
gained, but that could not be apparent to men and women enter- 
ing the fifth month of a bitter, bloody strike. 

John Reed, at the time when the Paterson strikers learned the 
truth, was on his way to Europe. A month after the pageant 
he was irritating Gertrude Stein by telling her stories about 
witches in Spain which she, having spent months in Spain, did 
not like and did not believe. A fortnight later he, Robert Jones, 
and Carl Van Vechten— Mabel Dodge’s jeunes gens assortis, in 
Miss Stein’s phrase— were domiciled among the grandeurs of the 
Villa Curonia in Florence. 

Paterson seemed to be merely an episode in an active life. 
The pageant was something to be talked about with Gordon 
Craig and other visitors at the villa. Muriel and Paul Draper 
arrived one evening with Arthur Rubinstein and John McMul- 
lin. There were triangular arguments between Mrs. Draper, 
Jones, and Van Vechten about painting. Van Vechten quarreled 
with Rubinstein and Mrs. Draper about Bach. John Reed, hitch- 
ing up his pants and impatiently pawing curly hair, called them 
all fools. Mabel Dodge sat quietly, missed nothing, enjoyed 

There was a ghost: “It doesn’t appear or anything. It simply 
smothers you. You wake up suffocating, and always almost out 
of bed. The story is a simple one. It was an Italian woman who 
died there, and who loved the place and Mabel Dodge, so that 
she doesn’t want any one else to stay. We weren’t told anything 
specific about it. But afterward, we found out that lots of people 
had been actually driven away by it. And all had the same 
symptoms. So tonight we had a couple of priests down from the 
monastery on the nearby hill, with acolytes and censers, and 
litde horse-hair rattles to sprinkle holy water with, and they 
put on their vestments and went through the service of Exor- 
cism of Devils, parading through the house, chanting, intoning, 
and carrying on like all get out.” 

He loved the villa, “an ancient Medici affair, with contours 
supposed to be by Michel Angelo, and a great courtyard by 
Brunnelleschi.” Living there, overlooking all Florence and the 


whole Arno valley, he felt “like the fisherman caught up by the 
genie’s daughter and carried to the mountain-top.” The room 
in which he slept was hung with strips of crimson damask, edged 
with gold, which came from an old church in Venice, and there 
were great fourteenth century armoires reaching to the ceiling. 
From the terrace on which it opened, he could look out over 
cypresses and oleanders and grapevines and olive trees to the 
rolling Tuscan hills, and could hear a peasant on the road to 
Siena singing “a song that must have come out of the East with 
the Etrurians before Rome.” 

When Mabel Dodge organized a motor trip, and they visited 
the old towns to the south of Florence, sleeping one night in a 
monastery on a bleak mountain and the next upon the shore of 
Lake Trasimeno, he was excited by the palaces, delicate but 
barbaric, of Siena, by the high towers of San Gianiguano and its 
view over vineyards and mountains, by the Sodoma frescoes at 
Monte Olivette and the Giottos at Assisi. Each town as he 
came to it seemed to him the perfect place in which to live. 

And back in Florence there was swimming every day in a 
tank at the Villa Bombichi. Always a place to swim meant hap- 
piness for Reed, but this was a tank built by Michel Angelo, 
set in an olive grove and backed by a hill of cypresses. Swim- 
ming and talk— and Mabel Dodge kept the house full of “smart, 
clever, hard Londoners, very rapne and effete,” and the flower 
of “ultra-modem, ultra-civilized Continental society.” She took 
care that each of the visitors heard about the pageant and read 
The Day in Bohemia. She knew not only how to capture lions 
but also how to show them off. 

Mabel Dodge had become rather more than John Reed’s 
benefactress. She attracted him as she had attracted and was to at- 
tract many other men. She, too, had revolted against the deathly 
dreariness of the bourgeoisie. She, too, wanted life, though, 
as he was to discover, she wanted it only for herself. Her im- 
movable calm and her kind of naive wilfulness seemed soft and 
feminine, but she was ruthless and could be terribly exacting. 
She liked John Reed because he was alive. “I have never known 
a great man or woman,” she wrote, after she had known many, 
“who did not first of all give one a feeling of realness, true 


livingness.” Her fondness for Reed flattered him. She was experi- 
enced enough so that her affection could be construed as a 
tribute to his virility, as it was undoubtedly a tribute to the 
promise of genius. Flattered and fascinated, Reed was perfectly 
willing to have her for his guide into a world of new experience, 
of which Italy was merely the geographical locale. 

“I never was so happy in my life,” he wrote Hunt. And yet, 
having heard from Hunt how much disappointment the finan- 
cial failure of the pageant had brought and how that failure 
had been used to attack the I.W.W. and weaken its leadership 
of the strike, he felt, he said, like a coward. He had known that 
he was miming away. There were not merely the details of the 
pageant; there was the strike itself. When he led the singing 
for the last time, the strikers had said, “We been so lonesome 
for to sing— you come tomorrow.^” And there was a sense of 
disloyalty to his family as well, for Harry had had to settle 
down to a dull, routine job, and Mrs. Reed was struggling with 
the dreary tangle of dubious assets and unmistakable liabilities. 

But Reed had had to go. More was at stake than the glamor 
of Italy. “I’m really tired,” he wrote his mother, “for the first 
time in my life, and I know I can do finer work if I can rest.” 
Of course he was tired, after the three breathless weeks of 
preparation for the pageant, but not merely tired. What he felt, 
perhaps none too clearly, was that he was being impelled to 
make a choice. He had been attracted to Bill Haywood, Gurley 
Flynn, and Carlo Tresca: “I liked their understanding of the 
workers, their revolutionary thought, the boldness of their 
dream, the way immense crowds of people took fire and came 
alive under their leadership. Here was drama, change, democ- 
racy on the march made visible.” He could not forget “the 
exultant men who had blithely defied the lawless brutality of 
the city government and gone to prison laughing and singing.’' 
It was by no means the first time that he had become conscious 
of injustice, but he had never known how intense the struggle 
against injustice could be and how great the stakes. He had felt 
the beauty and glory of that struggle, and had seen that he 
was fitted for a part in it. After the pageant it seemed inevi- 
table that he should be drawn into it further and further. 



He was not afraid. What made him hesitate was the recogni- 
tion that any commitment sheared away some part of life’s pos- 
sibilities. He wanted to hold to everything that he had found 
good. It was typical of him that, in the fortnight between the 
pageant and his sailing for Italy, he was not too busy or too 
tired to attend the triennial reunion of the class of 1910. When 
he wrote his mother that he was not tying up with the I.W.W, 
he was, of course, trying to reassure a conventional, harassed, 
aspiring woman of the middle class, but the reasons he gave her 
were the reasons he gave himself: “I am not a Socialist temper- 
amentally any more than I’m an Episcopalian. I know now that 
my business is to interpret and live Life, wherever it may be 
found— whether in the labor movement or out of it. I haven’t 
ever been patient with cliques any more than Paw was, and I 
won’t be roped in, any more than he was, in some petty gang 
with a platform.” 

The problem was many-sided. Bobby Rogers wrote him, 
“Cut out the quick-lunch, emotionally effective propaganda 
dope, such as the jail story in the Masses. You can either do that, 
or you can try to do literature without strings tied to it. The 
latter for the sake of art, or the first for the sake of Big Bill. 
You can’t do both.” Reed could not foresee that Rogers, hav- 
ing won notoriety by advising his students at Massachusetts In- 
stitute of Technology to be snobs and marry their bosses’ 
daughters, would do his “literature without strings tied to it” 
for a Hearst newspaper. What he did realize was that all he had 
ever said about art for art’s sake, in revolt against the kind of 
literature that propagandized for bourgeois morality and cap- 
italist economics, could be applied to literature that propa- 
gandized for proletarian justice and I.W.W. principles. He felt 
there was a difference, but he could not define it. 

Definition was never his way of solving any problem. Intel- 
lectual analysis might have saved him long delays, much con- 
fusion, and some unhappiness; on the other hand, it might have 
betrayed him. In any case he was both incapable and scornful 
of rational solutions. He had an opportunity to go to Italy, 
and he went. Except on one occasion, when he walked into a 
Socialist meeting and presented the greetings of the American 


Socialist movement— “Signor Reed, a tall, robust, and blond 
youth, completely won the sympathies of the audience”— he 
thought little about the labor movement. He took what the 
moment gave, with confidence that, when the moment was over, 
he would know what he wanted to do. 

At the end of the summer he and Robert Jones, who was bound 
for Germany to study under Max Reinhardt, started on a walk- 
ing-trip. At some point they discovered an old cistern, thick 
with green scum, which local legend associated with Leonardo 
da Vinci. Reed plunged in. There or elsewhere he caught diph- 
theria. He recovered rapidly, and in the middle of September 
sailed for America. 


The Romantic Revolution 

T he genie’s daughter brought Reed back from the castle on 
the mountain-top. He had given up his job on the Ameri- 
can when he went to Italy, and now, in October, 191 3, he 
became managing editor of the Masses. The cartoons and pic- 
tures were becoming better and better. To Young, Sloan, and 
Becker had been added K. R. Chamberlain, George Bellows, 
Glenn Coleman, and Stuart Davis. They drew the life of New 
York that John Reed had learned to love: crowded streets, 
night courts. Coney Island, the markets, saloons, and alleys. 
Young, always thrusting at capitalism, had provoked a libel suit 
by the Associated Press with liis cartoon, “Poisoned at the 
Source.” Sloan did a devastating back cover on the Binghamton 
factory fire. Other artists attacked the evils of capitalism or 
satirized the absurdity of middle-class pretensions. But for the 
most part they were discoverers, awakening, just as John Reed 
had awakened, to the rich variety of Manhattan, never indiffer- 
ent to the injustice and cruelty that were part of that variety, 
but equally excited by the fate of a political prisoner, the woes 
of a prostitute, and the misadventures of rowdy boys. 

Reed’s own contribution reflected as catholic a taste as the 
drawings. He wrote a simple, restrained sonnet on a farmer’s 
woman, and the editors of the Masses, in the midst of political 
upheavals and economic warfare, devoted a full page to the 
poem and the drawing by Sloan that accompanied it. He satirized 
philanthropy in “Another Case of Ingratitude.” He wrote a one- 
act played called “Moondown” about the romantic dreams of 
working girls. Whatever he found that was fresh and aEve was 
material for the Masses. 



The sense of discovery was everywhere, and it was always 
joined, though sometimes by fragile ties, to the spirit of protest. 
Henrietta Rodman, a high school teacher, had fostered the Lib- 
eral Club to give some sort of unity to the diverse expressions of 
the new insurgency. She knew teachers, settlement workers, and 
Socialists, as well as artists, poets, and hoboes. When the Liberal 
Club and Polly Holladay’s restaurant were estabhshed in the 
same building on Macdougal Street, the Village had not merely 
a social but an intellectual center. Newcomers, such as Floyd 
Dell or Alfred Kreymborg, could meet the giants of the Village, 
Horace Traubel or Thomas Seltzer or, if he happened to be in 
town. Big Bill Haywood. And they could readily find their 
places in the turbulent activity that grew out of the surging rush 
of emotions and ideas. 

To the new arrivals in the Village, Jack Reed, already a legend- 
ary figure at twenty-six, seemed a thoroughgoing radical. And, 
by the standards of the Village, he was. He was contemptuous 
of organized religion, the institution of marriage, and what is 
called law and order. His sympathies were on the side of labor. 
He was romantic, but not sentimental. He was gallant, even 
reckless, but he could count the cost of recklessness, and he 
never complained at having to pay the price. 

And radicalism was beginning to go a little deeper. He had 
not forgotten his friends of the Paterson strike. In particular 
there was F. Sumner Boyd, under indictment in Paterson for 
violating New Jersey’s anarchy statutes. Boyd was an English- 
man and the son of radicals. His. first memories were of the 
refugees from the Continent who stayed for days or weeks in 
his parents’ home. He became a Socialist, a street speaker, an 
organizer of the unemployed. He led demonstrations, and went 
as a delegate to the International Socialist Congress in Copen- 
hagen. In 1910 he came to America. The Socialists he met 
seemed dry and professorial or suave and opportunistic, but 
from the first he liked Bill Haywood as a person, and during the 
Lawrence strike he accepted his principles and became a mem- 
ber of the I.W.W. Thus it happened that he was called into the 
Paterson strike when Haywood was arrested, and in its bitterest 
days delivered a speech on sabotage. 


Boyd was perhaps the first thoroughly informed Marxist Reed 
had known. Though he was only two years older than'Reed, he 
had been brought up in the radical movement, had been an 
active revolutionary for more than a decade, and had read and 
re-read the classics of Marxism. They had met at strike head- 
quarters in Paterson, had liked each other, and had worked to- 
gether on the pageant. Soon after Reed left for Italy, Boyd was 
arrested, and was awaiting trial when Reed returned. He had 
at first supported himself in this country by radical journahsm, 
but his connection with the I.W.W. had ended all possibility of 
employment by Socialist papers. Reed found work for him, and 
they were constantly together. Boyd was poet enough to appre- 
ciate Reed; Reed was radical enough to appreciate Boyd. 

Mabel Dodge did not like Boyd. In fact, she hked only those 
friends of Reed’s who would submit to her domination or add to 
her glory. Reed found her demands a little trying. When he 
wanted to explore the East Side, she would propose that they go 
together in her limousine. If he neglected her for the Masses or 
the Liberal Club or for other friends, she might threaten to take 
poison, and at least once she took it. As on a similar occasion in 
Italy, the dose proved less than fatal, but the incident was rather 
embarrassing for Reed. He ran away in desperation to Boston 
and Cambridge, leaving Hapgood and Steffens to cope with Mrs. 
Dodge’s hysteria. But he had to return, and nothing had been 

The whole situation was distressingly complicated. The flight 
to Italy had solved no problems. The demands of radicalism, so 
eloquently presented by Boyd, clashed just as relentlessly as ever 
with the poet’s craving for all experience. The defeat of the 
Paterson strikers and the consequent weakening of the I.W.W. 
robbed him of the satisfaction he had taken in the pageant. For 
both financial and temperamental reasons, the managing editor- 
ship of the Masses could only temporarily serve his purposes. It 
was a satisfaction to bring out such an issue as the one that cele- 
brated Christmas, with its coruscating cartoons against rehgion, 
but Reed knew that he had little executive ability, and he could 
not contemplate an indefinite future as Max Eastman’s right- 
hand man. He was depressed, though his friends seldom sus- 

1 12 JOHM KEJiU 

pected it. He had lost confidence in himself and in the convic- 
tions he had arrived at. So far as he could see, he had reached an 

SxmDENLY a way opened for him. Francisco Villa, crossing the 
border from El Paso in March of 1913, had raised an army in his 
native mountains, and driven the Federal troops from jiminez 
and Torreon. With the capture of Chihuahua City in Novem- 
ber, and his sudden raid on Juarez, he became the sensation of 
the American press, and the war-correspondents rushed down 
into Mexico. The Metropolitan asked Reed to go. He had done 
two articles for the magazine; Carl Hovey, managing editor, 
had been a pupil of Copey’s; Lincoln Steffens said he could do 
the job. 

The Metropolitan, changing owners in 1912, turned to So- 
cialism as, a decade earlier, McClure’s and Everybody’s had 
turned to muckraking. Like its muckraking predecessors, it gave 
most of its space to fiction, and the generous subsidy of Harry 
Payne Whitney permitted it to publish works by Rudyard Kip- 
ling, Arnold Bennett, Joseph Conrad, Booth Tarkington, Rupert 
Hughes, Fannie Hurst, and a good many others whose names 
sold copies on the newsstands. At the same time, it sought the 
intellectual prestige of the new radicalism. George Herron, vic- 
tim of a famous academic scandal, Walter Lippmann, and Mor- 
ris Hillquit expounded Socialism. Frederic C. Howe wrote on 
the labor movement abroad, Israel Zangwill on the militant suf- 
fragists of England, Bernard Shaw on equality, Lincoln Steffens 
on corruption. The wiser radicals were skeptical and amused, 
but they were bound to feel that, when hard-boiled editors 
backed by a sporting millionaire took up Socialism, the move- 
ment was growing. 

The editors suggested that Reed would have more prestige in 
Mexico, as well as greater profit, if he could also act as the rep- 
resentative of a daily newspaper. The Tribune, he discovered, 
was sending Richard Harding Davis. He hurried to the Sun, 
where Don Marquis, whom he had known as a friend of Robert 
Rogers’, was working. Reed’s necktie was untied, his shoe- 
strings flapping, his hair uncombed. Marquis took him to see the 


owner, a fat little man, conventional and smug, who shrank be- 
hind his desk as if he expected a bomb to be thrown, and barked 
out a refusal. Finally the World gave Reed the assignment he 

Three days later he was at the border. At Presidio, on the 
American side of the Rio Grande, he chmbed to the flat mud 
roof of the post ofHce and looked across low scrub and the shal- 
low yellow river to Ojinaga, headquarters of Mercado’s beaten 
army. General Orozco had forbidden reporters to enter the 
Mexican city, but Reed waded across the river and found Mer- 
cado, who blubbered and blustered about his defeat. The houses 
of the town, which had been lost and taken five times, were 
roofless and the walls riddled. Along the main street hordes of 
sick and starving people passed, driven from the interior by fear 
of the approaching rebels. Refugees poured across the river, 
challenged by rude inspectors. Asked what she carried beneath 
her voluminous shawl, one woman placidly answered, “I don’t 
know, senor. It may be a girl, or it may be a boy.” 

Presidio, with its dozen adobe shades and its two-story frame 
store, was overrun with war-correspondents, secret agents of 
both armies, representatives of American interests, drummers for 
munition companies, and rangers, sheriffs, cow-punchers, and 
customs officials. The store-keeper spent half his time profitably 
outfitting refugees and supplying provisions to the Federal army, 
and the other half trying to protect his three daughters from 
amorous Mexicans and cowboys. An agent for a portrait com- 
pany was getting thousands of orders for colored enlargements 
from photographs. The High Sheriff of Presidio County periodi- 
cally bustled into town with a revolver on each hip, a knife in 
his left boot, and a shotgun over his saddle. Then there was 
“Doc,” who played Wagner and Beethoven on a castrated melo- 
deon, charged twenty-five cents for setting a limb or delivering 
a child, was always drunk, and dimly remembered days in 
London with Frederick Watts and William Morris. 

Up the river to El Paso Reed went, and again there were cor- 
respondents and agents and salesmen. Across the river, at Juarez, 
he had his first sight of the Constitutionalist army— two thousand 
horsemen and five hundred infantry, most of them wearing blue 


denim suits but a few in khaki, each of them with a bright- 
colored handkerchief about his neck and a gay sarape on his 
saddle. The general arrived: “Two thousand nondescript, tat- 
tered men, on dirty little tough horses, their sarapes flying out 
behind, their mouths one wild yell, simply flung themselves out 
over the plain. That’s how the general reviewed them.” Already 
Reed was taking sides: “These were wild men, well fed, clothed, 
armed, and mounted, volunteers instead of conscripts like the 
Federals. A great bunch, believe me.” “What pageant material!” 
he added. 

On Christmas Day he was at Villa’s headquarters in Chihua- 
hua, in the middle of a brown, savage desert, with great jagged 
mountains in the distance. “More wonderful than Italy,” he 
thought, as he saw the mosque-lilre white churches and the soft 
yellow-brown cathedral, with its arabesques and its primitive 
angels and popes. He followed Villa to the opera house. Thou- 
sands of people stood along the street shouting “Viva Villa.” 
Bands played, and the theatre, into which women and children 
poured, was gay with Mexican flags and colors in bunting and 
lights. Villa called the children to the platform in a long line, 
and gave each a suit of clothes and a dollar and a half in the new 
currency. Reed noticed that more than once, as the ragged 
children passed before him, there were tears in Villa’s eyes. 

The next morning Reed was taken into Villa’s room by his 
private secretary before the general arrived. Soon there was a 
fanfare of bugles outside, and a fairly tall, thick-set man in a 
brovra suit entered, followed by a throng of peons. The room 
was with difficulty cleared, and Villa sat down at his desk. 
Benavides, his secretary, read his letters, and he swiftly dictated 
his answers. Then there was a conference with Terrazas, Secre- 
tary of State. Meanwhile Reed watched. Villa’s movements, it 
seemed to him, were like an animal’s. When he stood up, he was 
awkward and stiff below the knees, from much horseback ri din g 
Above the waist, with hands and arms and trunk, he moved with 
the sureness and swiftness of a coyote. His mouth hung open, 
and his face seemed good-natured, almost simple. Only his eyes, 
dark, perfectly round, and steely, were terrible. 

When he had finished his work. Villa turned to Reed, and the 



first of a score of interviews began. The stories, circulated by 
the Metropolitan, of Villa’s deep affection for Reed, and of his 
making him a Brigadier General, Reed took pains to deny. “It is 
not true,” he wrote, “that ‘a remarkable friendship’ existed be- 
tween General Villa and myself. I doubt if I should even call 
it a friendship.” Nevertheless, Villa, who was capable of dismiss- 
ing newspaper men without ceremony, did permit Reed to 
accompany him about the city, to spend hours in his office, and, 
two months later, to go with him into battle. As for Reed, 
though he stood in awe of Villa— “He is a terrible man”— he be- 
came his staunchest supporter in the American press. 

He was attracted to Villa by his romantic story. He had heard 
all the legends: of the government official murdered in revenge, 
of the raids on rich hacendados, of the distribution of spoils 
am ong the peons. He knew the ballads of reckless and romantic 
bravery that had grown up around the Mexican Robin Hood, 
“the friend of the poor.” He had read of Villa’s loyal support of 
Madero in 1910, and he had been told by Federals and Constitu- 
tionalists alike of the incredible campaign that, in eight months, 
had given Villa control of Chihuahua and most of northern 

Moreover, Villa was democratic. One day, as a troop train 
stood on a siding in Chihuahua, loading men and cannon and 
supplies, Reed noticed the general, his brown suit dirty, his shirt 
open at the neck, driving mules into a car. The sweat poured 
down his face as he cursed and kicked the balking animals on the 
narrow gangplank. Finally, when the car was loaded and the 
doors closed, he turned to a soldier and seized his canteen. De- 
spite the man’s protest, he emptied it, and, returning it, said, 
“Go over to the river and say you have my permission to fill it.” 
The man grinned and left. Villa, Reed found, trusted nobody, 
but he liked everyone except his enemies, and the soldiers wor- 
shipped him for his bravery and his coarse, blunt humor. 

Finally, Villa had a generous vision of what Mexico might 
become and a considerable ingenuity in devising rough-and- 
ready means for serving the needs of the peons. Almost his first 
act as Governor of Chihuahua had been the creation of a con- 
trolled currency. He issued two million pesos in paper, guar- 


anteed by nothing but his name, distributed them to the army 
and to the poor, and ordered the acceptance of the money at par 
throughout the state. He then fixed the price of beef, millr, and 
bread. When the merchants began posting two sets of prices, he 
proclaimed Mexican silver and bank-bills counterfeit after a 
stated day. That day came, and the hoarders, doubting Villa’s 
word, had not exchanged their Mexican money for his currency. 
A few arrests sufiiced; the silver piled up in his treasury and his 
pesos circulated everywhere in the state of Chihuahua. 

He used the army to run the electric light plant, the street 
railways, the telephone exchange, the water works, and the Ter- 
razas’ flour mill and slaughter house. “The only thing to do 
with soldiers in time of peace,” he said, “is to put them to work. 
An idle soldier is always thinking of war.” He planned, once 
the revolution had been accompHshed, to establish military col- 
onies for the veterans. Instead of a standing army that might 
become the bulwark of tyranny, there would be vast agricul- 
tural and industrial enterprises. Here the veterans would work 
three days a week. The other three days they would drill and 
give military instruction to all the people, to create a citizens’ 
army for the defense of the fatherland. 

He believed that education would solve the problems of 
Mexico, and he established schools throughout Chihuahua. He 
was willmg to talk about Socialism, remote as its ideas seemed 
to him. Startled by the proposal that women should vote, he 
could at least contemplate the possibilities of woman suffrage, 
especially when his wife, in a test Reed suggested, exhibited the 
sternness of mind he had thought was purely masculine. He 
repeatedly declared that he had no desire to be president. He 
would like to live, he told Reed, in one of the military colonies 
he planned to create, where he and his comrades could find use- 
ful work to do. “I think I would hke the government to estab- 
lish a leather factory there, where we could make good saddles 
and bridles, because I know how to do that; and the rest of the 
time I would like to work on my little farm, raising cattle and 
com. It would be fine, I think, to help make Mexico a happy 

Ultimately Reed^s admiration for Villa rested on the fact that 


he, too, wanted Mexico to be a happy place. Despite his love for 
the urban life of an industrial civilization, he had a deep, per- 
sistent distrust of industrialism, and he dreamed, as have so many 
of the radicals who have followed him to Mexico, of an agrarian 
paradise. What he knew of Marxism told him that Mexico could 
not escape the advance of science and technology, and, indeed, 
his own eyes showed him the constant progress of the machine. 
But he hated the American business men who were bringing 
the machine and machine-slavery to Mexico, and he loved the 
peons. He hoped that they might escape from bondage to the 
land-owners without falling into the hands of Wall Street ex- 
ploiters. At least the immediate step was their liberation, and it 
was their battle that Villa, himself a peon, was fighting. 

Reed did not understand all the issues, but that did not dis- 
tinguish him from other newspaper correspondents or even from 
the majority of experts. Lmcoln Steffens carefully reasoned his 
way to the belief that Carranza was the man to save Mexico. 
Reed let his feelings guide him to unquestioning endorsement 
of Villa. Steffens should have been right, but it is s till, more thi^n 
twenty years later, not absolutely certain that he was. Villa, 
Steffens told Woodrow Wilson, was “a grossly illiterate, un- 
scrupulous, unrevolutionary bandit.” That Villa was ruthless, 
Reed knew well enough; but he had seen that Mexico was a 
country of ruthless men. That Villa could be bought, as Steffens 
was convinced after his investigations in Wall Street, Reed did 
not believe. Steffens had a hundred arguments to support his 
claims; Reed had only his acquaintance with Villa and Villa’s 
men, but for him that was enough. 

During his week in Chihuahua, Reed had the opportunity to 
strengthen his convictions by talking with some of the Ameri- 
can business men who hated Villa. He went one day out through 
the chaparral and around great brown mountains to the Haci- 
enda Robinson, whence he rode, on the engine of an ore-train, 
to a mining-camp controlled by American capital. The manager, 
though cool in his welcome, provided him with a horse, and they 
climbed over the mountain, past hundreds of deserted shafts, to 
some of the active lead and silver mines. Profits, he found, were 


excellent. Even in these unsettled times, it was a poor company 
that could not pay seven percent. Wages were low. Much of 
the work was let out to native contractors, who paid less than 
two dollars a day in Mexican money. Despite the manager’s in- 
sistence that the miners were a bad lot and hated all gringos, 
Reed went into their houses, and was treated with courtesy. 
They were wretchedly poor— “the poorest people I’ve seen in 
Mexico, underfed, bare-footed, physically degraded”— but they 
offered him coffee. The houses one of the companies had built 
were cheerless “contractor’s boxes,” all alike in their square, 
dreary bareness, but even so they were better than the houses 
the laborers in other mines made out of mud and boards and 
Standard Oil cans. 

“Those are pretty dirty places to live in,” Reed said to the 
manager, who replied, “Yes, and a pretty filthy lot of people 
live there.” The manager took him to a mountain crest, whence 
they could look forty miles in any direction over plains and 
mountains and valleys. “It’s the greatest climate in the world,” 
the manager said. “These damned Mexicans don’t deserve it. 
They ought to quit fighting and settle down and enjoy it.” 
Enjoy it by working ten hours a day in a mine, Reed thought. 
“It’s a rich country,” the manager went on, waving his arm at 
the rolling mountains. “Why it hasn’t even been prospected yet. 
All we want is peace, and a chance to work. We could turn 
over a pretty piece of change.” 

He continued his lecture. American capital, he said, had made 
Mexico. All the skilled workmen in the mines were Americans. 
It might be true, as Reed interrupted to point out, that Mexicans 
had had no chance to learn sldlled trades, but they wouldn’t be 
any good anyway. The 1910 revolution had changed the peon, 
made him more uppish, spoiled him. There were strikes all the 
time. The only thing to do with strikers was to shoot them 
down. Nothing could save Mexico but American intervention. 
Reed began to argue, and the manager checked his expansive- 
ness. “If you write anything to discourage intervention,” he 
warned, as Reed left, “we’ll get you.” 

The better Reed understood Villa’s enemies, the more eager 
he was to mingle with Villa’s men and to come to know his 


country. And he wanted to see action. Nothing was happe nin g 
in Chihuahua, and he began to think about going south. Torreon, 
poorly garrisoned, had fallen to the Federals, and, while V illa 
made preparations for an organized attack, his supporters in the 
mountains fought a guerrilla warfare with the skirmishing parties 
of the enemy and held the Durango passes. Reed wondered if 
he could find any one to go with him. 

On New Year’s Eve, stopping at Chee Lee’s for a Tom-and- 
Jerry, he found three Americans engaged in conversation about 
the immorality of Mexican women and the purity of the Ameri- 
can home. He sat down with them. A half-dozen drunken offi- 
cers arrived, looking for gringos to shoot, but they were pacified 
with Tom-and-Jerrys, and the Americans resumed their talk. 
One of them was Mac, who, though he was younger than Reed, 
had been a railroad foreman, a plantation overseer in Georgia, 
a cow-puncher, and a deputy sheriff. He was now boss mechanic 
in a mine in Durango, to which he was soon to return. After the 
fourth Tom-and-Jerry, Mac told with relish about hunting a 
Negro with bloodhounds in Georgia. The trouble with Mexi- 
cans, he explained after the fifth or sixth drink, is that they 
haven’t got any Heart. 

But Mac was going south, and would be glad to have Reed go 
with him. The troop train on which they left the next morning 
had five freight cars, filled with horses and carrying soldiers 
on top, and one coach, in which Reed and Mac sat, together 
with two hundred noisy non-combatants. The windows of the 
coach had been smashed, and the walls were full of bullet holes. 
The rails that had hastily been laid after Orozco’s destructive 
retreat trembled and bent. There was a rumor that bandits had 
planted dynamite. The peons sang and talked, organized a cock- 
fight, drank tequila, and fired at coyotes. When they stopped at 
ruined stations, women got out, started fires, and made coffee. 

Late in the evening the train reached Jiminez, and Reed and 
Mac went to the Station Hotel, kept by an eighty-year-old 
American woman, who opened a side window and squinted at 
them through steel-rimmed spectacles. “Well, I guess you’re all 
right,” she said, unbarred the door, and let them in. She ex- 
plained: “There’s so damned many drunken generals around 



today that I’ve got to keep the door locked.” Two of the gen- 
erals had come with their women and asked for rooms. “Sure I 
got rooms,” she told them, “but this ain’t no whorehouse. Beat 

In the bar Mac met an acquaintance, Captain Antonio Garcia, 
a man with a reputation throughout Villa’s army for his savage 
temper and cold-blooded cruelty. It was said that, after Tierra 
Blanca, he shot forty-five prisoners with his own revolver. He 
was polite enough to the Americans, and offered to show them 
the city. There were no lights on the dilapidated street that led 
from the station to the plaza. The night was dry and cold and 
full of a subtle excitement; guitars twanged; snatches of song 
and laughter and low voices, and shouts from distant streets, 
filled the darkness. Occasionally little troops of foot-soldiers on 
guard-duty or horsemen in high sombreros and scrapes came by. 
Officers passed in surreys, girls in their laps. In the plaza a regi- 
mental band played, without protest, a counter-revolutionary 
song. On one side of the plaza they found five ragged American 
boys, soldiers of fortune driven from the army by Villa’s order 
against American enlistments. The square was full. Men, mostly 
soldiers, promenaded on the outside; girls on the inside. When a 
man saw a girl he liked, he passed her a note— at the risk of a 
gun-fight if she happened to be some other man’s favorite. If 
she liked him, she smiled, and they met at church, or he came 
and talked to her through the window. 

Back at the hotel Mac and Captain Garcia stopped for an- 
other drink, and Reed went to his room to make notes. When 
the others came up, Garcia noticed Reed’s wrist-watch and ad- 
mired it so frankly that Reed urged it upon him. When he could 
finally be prevailed upon to accept it, the ferocious captain 
embraced Reed, pledged eternal friendship, and poured forth a 
hundred plans for serving the generous American. 

The next afternoon Mac and Reed and a soldier on leave 
named Fidencio, who served as muleteer, turned west to Magis- 
tral in Durango. Into a one-seated buggy, with patched harness 
and wobbly wheels, they piled six suitcases and two large boxes. 
They drove through a hot, quivering land, smothered in gray 
dust, between mesquite and chaparral bushes. Irrigating ditches 



ran everywhere, overshadowed by long lines of great alamo 
trees, leafless and gray as ashes. They came first to the village 
of San Pedro, where Reed stopped to admire a low building of 
exquisite pink plaster, set back from the road in a grove of green 
willows. It was a flour mill, and across the street there was an- 
other, with strange heads of angels carved above the door. They 
bought corn for the mules, and drove on. 

The sun went suddenly down behind the western mountains 
that traced a faint, waving line across the sky. Blood-red clouds 
flamed in the sky, and the mountains became curtains of blue 
velvet. They had hoped to reach the Hacienda San Isidro that 
night, but they found that they had lost their way. They drove 
on for a time in the dark, odorous with sage, Mac beating the 
mules and cursing them, while Fidencio sang. Finally they 
camped for the night and began to cook their supper. 

There was a crackling of footsteps and a hail. “Is it permitted 
to come out?” a voice inquired, and two figures appeared from 
the mesquite. The strangers doffed their hats politely and shook 
hands. Both wore floppy straw sombreros and were muffled 
to the eyes in tattered sarapes. One was a tall, black-bearded, 
slender man, with great eyes and a kind, smiling mouth. The 
other was very old and deeply wrinkled. They were poor ran- 
cheros, owning a small farm where they raised a flock of goats 
and a little corn. They offered the travelers hospitality, but 
Mac refused, knowing that the prescribed ceremonies of leave- 
taldng would delay their departure by several hours. They 
brought dry wood for the fires, and, refusing food, drank coffee, 
smoked, and talked politics. They were pacificos, non-com- 
batants, weary of war and revolution. “Why do the rich want 
so much?” the old man asked. “The poor man is contented with 
so little. It is a mystery known alone to God. And now the 
United States wants Mexico.” They led the mules into their 
corral, and bade the travelers good-night. 

When Reed awoke, the others were up, and the farmers were 
harnessing the mules to the wagon. Poor as they were, they 
refused to accept money until Mac said, “Please do me the favor 
to take this and buy some aguardiente with it to drink my 
health.” Then the two Americans and Fidencio drove away in 


the sharp chill of early morning. The sun rose, like metal pour- 
ing out of a furnace, and at noon they reached San Isidro, with 
its ancient Spanish church and the white bare wall of the haci- 

They left their mules at one of the stables and walked into 
the large square, round which stood perhaps a hundred one- 
story adobe houses. These were the homes of the men who 
worked the miles of field and cared for the great herds that be- 
longed to the owner of the hacienda. In the square life teemed. 
There were thousands of pigs, chickens, burros, dogs, piles of 
ordure, pieces of harness, scraps of iron, children of all ages, 
from naked two-year olds riding pigs to swaggering boys and 
flirtatious girls of fourteen or fifteen. Diagonally across the 
square, women, with jars or cans on their head, walked to and 
from the river, a mile away. Other women squatted outside the 
white-washed doors, mashing wet corn in stone mortars. Horse- 
men, wearing tight leather trousers with silver buckles, and great 
straw hats, three feet wide and two feet high, lavishly orna- 
mented with silver braid, rode madly after a bunch of young 
horses they were preparing to brand. Reed felt that he was be- 
ginning to know the Mexicans; “The most humble peon has a 
delicacy of tact and a quick intelligence that are not found 
among any class of any race that I know. There are no people 
I have seen who are so close to nature as these people are. They 
are just like their mud houses, just like their little crops of corn.” 

The decrepit buggy and the cadaverous mules brought them 
at last to Magistral, and Mac went his own way into the moun- 
tams. Reed, though he disliked the man’s bullying ways and his 
cruel prejudices, realized that in leaving him he was cutting 
himself loose from his own land. He was frightened: “I was 
afraid of death, of mutilation, of a strange land and strange peo- 
ple whose speech and thought I did not know. But a terrible 
curiosity urged me on; I felt I had to know how I would act 
under fire, how I would get along with these primitive folks at 
war.” “He is twenty-six,” the Metropolitan had said in its adver- 
tisements, “and does not know fear.” 

Fidencio urged him to visit his home in Valle Allegre before 
he went on to join General Urbina. The young soldier swag- 


gered into the tiny village, and every one made of him— every 
one except Pablito. Pablito, who had been courting Fidencio’s 
Carmencita, drew a revolver, and Reed thought his companion 
would be killed. But Pablito did not shoot, and Fidencio, hav- 
ing demonstrated his right to Carmencita, went oR to drink 

It was Fidencio who took Reed to Santa Maria del Oro for 
Los P ustotes. El Oro, where there were dances almost every 
night and the girls were the prettiest in all Durango, was famous 
for the miracle play produced on the Feast of the Santos Reyes, 
the Magi. Reed sat for three hours, as the story of Lucifer’s 
attempt to seduce a young shepherd’s wife unfolded, and led to 
the revelation to the shepherds of the birth of Jesus and their 
journey to the manger in Bethlehem. “It flashed upon me,” he 
wrote, “as Fidencio and I went home with our arms about each 
other’s shoulders, that this was the kind of thing which had 
preceded the Golden Age of the Theatre in Europe— the flower- 
ing of the Renaissance. It was amusing to speculate what the 
Mexican Renaissance would have been if it had not come so 
late. But already around the narrow shores of the Mexican Mid- 
dle Ages beat the great seas of modern life— machinery, scientific 
thought, and political theory. Mexico will have to skip for a 
time her Golden Age of Drama.” 

Ax LAST he joined General Tomas Urbina at Las Nieves. An 
Arab peddler carried him the two days’ journey from Magistral 
in a two-wheeled gig. The general was sitting in the patio of the 
great hacienda that had become his through the fortunes of war, 
feeding tortillas to a tame deer and a lame black sheep. He gave 
Reed a limp hand and bade him eat. The next day he suggested 
that he would like to have some pictures taken, and Reed 
photographed General Tomas Urbina on foot, with and without 
a sword, on three different horses, and with and without his 
family. He also photographed, separately and in groups, his 
mother, his mistress, and his three children. 

Urbina thought it might be ten days before he would go into 
battle, and Reed, knowing he could not escape from Mexican 
hospitality, resigned himself to a prolonged stay at Las Nieves. 


But suddenly the general changed his mind and came out of his 
room, roaring orders. In five minutes troopers were saddling 
horses, peons were rushing to and fro with armfuls of rifles, and 
five mules were being harnessed to the general’s coach. And 
then La Tropa appeared— the troop, in whose constant company 
Reed was to spend the next few weeks, in whose ranks he was 
to find many friends, in whose battle he was narrowly to escape 
death. They came on the dead run, shouting and firing their 
revolvers, one hundred of them, some in overalls, most in peons’ 
jackets, a few in tight vaquero trousers. 

After an hour’s delay, the general rode off on a gray charger. 
Reed entered the coach with the cases of dynamite, which rolled 
about and crashed ominously as the rough trail dipped sharply 
into arroyos. Late in the afternoon they came to the Hacienda 
of Torreon de Canas. The general, it was announced, was sick. 
The troop settled itself among the corrals and stables, and Reed 
ate with the officers in one of the lofty, barren halls of the Casa 
Grande. The next morning the general bade them farewell, and 
they started off, Reed in the coach with a jealous officer and his 
amorous mistress. 

After lunch at another hacienda, Reed secured a horse and 
joined the troop. “Now you are with the men,” said one of 
them. That was what Reed wanted. They welcomed “meester” 
with jokes and liquor and songs. That night, on the floor of a 
stone storehouse, despite the snoring and the songs of the guards 
and the fleas, Reed slept better than he had before in Mexico. 
“Those weeks,” he wrote three years later, “of riding hundreds 
of miles across the blazing plains, sleeping on the ground with 
the hombres, dancing and carousing in looted haciendas all night 
after an aU-day ride, being with them intimately in play, in bat- 
tle, was perhaps the most satisfactory period of my life.” 

Steadily the troop pushed south, and at last they came to La 
Cadena. Though Reed had some money and his outfit was 
highly desirable, nothing was ever stolen. Indeed, the troop, 
unpaid for six weeks, would not accept money for the food and 
drink and cigarettes they supplied in abundance. When the 
troop went to another post, and a new garrison came to La 
Cadena, there were new friends. Sometimes the traditional hatred 


of gringos flared up, but always there was some one to explain 
that Juan Reed was different. He felt closer and closer to these 
men, and some of them became his brothers by the Indian cere- 
mony of blood. 

For some days there was nothing for the soldiers to do but 
amuse themselves. Then, one morning, an ofScer announced that 
a thousand colorados, the irregulars of the Federal army, had 
come through the pass while the guard was asleep. *'Now mees- 
ter’s going to see some of those shots he wanted,” said a soldier. 
“How about it, meester? Feel scared?” Reed didn’t feel scared. 
The whole business didn’t seem real. He said to himself, “You 
lucky devil, you’re actually going to see a fight. That will round 
out the story.” And he loaded his camera. 

He had no horse, and stood by the Casa Grande as the com- 
manding officer sent out small detachments to meet the bands of 
colorados that, from different sides, swept towards the hacienda. 
Suddenly he became conscious that for some time he had been 
hearing shooting— far off, like a clicking typewriter. But it was 
coming nearer, and soon the sound was almost the roll of a 
snare-drum. Hundreds of little black figures appeared, ri ding 
furiously through the chaparral. There were savage Indian yells, 
and bullets thudded against the adobe walls. A soldier dashed up 
with a message for the colonel, and his jaw was shot away before 
he could speak. Then came the rout, a wild huddle of troopers 
lashing their terrified horses. “Come on, meester,” said Juan 
VaUejo, and they began to run. 

Straight through the desert Reed ran, droppmg his camera, 
casting aside his coat. He ran until he was sobbing instead of 
breathing and awful cramps gripped his legs. He was still in 
plain sight, and groups of irregulars were riding everywhere 
after the fleeing troopers. He saw friends killed. As breath per- 
mitted, he ran. “I wasn’t very frightened,” he wrote. “Every- 
thmg still seemed so unreal, like a page out of Richard Harding 
Davis. It just seemed to me thatif I didn’t get away I wouldn’t be 
doing my job well.” He kept thinking to himself, “Well, this is 
certainly an experience. I’m going to have something to write 

Other men were running, too, and suddenly he saw a boy, no 


more than thirteen, closely pursued. The Federal troopers ran 
him down, jumped their horses on him, and killed him. Reed, 
wliile the colorados dispatched the boy, ran on. He stumbled 
into an arroyo, and lay there, half -hidden by mesquite as the 
party of guerrillas rode by. Afraid to move, he fell asleep. When 
he woke, there were still scattered shots, and not far away an 
Indian with a rifle crouched on his horse. Reed waited for half 
an hour after the Indian rode out of sight, and then walked, 
stooping low, towards the mountains. The sun burned fiercely; 
chaparral tore his clothes and face; cactus, century plants, and 
the spikes of the espadas slashed his boots. At last the hacienda 
was dim in the distance, and only a thin line of dust marked the 
troop of colorados taking their dead back to Mapimi. 

At noon he reached a ranch that he had visited with one of 
his comrades, Gino Guereca. Guereca’s parents, despite their 
dread of the Federal troops, gave Reed food and water, and 
showed him the way to the Hacienda del Palayo. All afternoon 
he hurried on, hiding as well as he could from every horseman 
that appeared on the horizon. Safe at last among the peons of 
Palayo, who marveled more at the distance he had walked than 
at his account of the skirmish, he bathed and slept, and the next 
morning set out in a two-wheeled cart for Santo Domingo. 

As he came late in the afternoon to the hacienda, some ped- 
dlers whom he had seen the day before at La Cadena crowded 
about him. “The meester!” they cried. “Here comes the meester. 
How did you escape?” And from them he learned the list of 
fatalities: “Blithe, beautiful Martinez; Gino Guereca, whom I 
had learned to love so much; Redondo, whose girl was even then 
on her way to Chihuahua to buy her wedding dress; and jolly 
Nicanor.” Reed felt sick, “sick to think of so many useless 
deaths in such a petty fight.” 

As the rest of the troop came back from burying their dead, 
he learned more of the story and found that most of his friends 
who survived had been wounded. And it was then that he met 
Elizabetta, who was trudging behind Captain Romero’s horse. 
Her lover had been killed in the battle, and Romero had become 
her man, but for that night she revolted, and sought refuge with 
Reed. “Without the least embarrassment,” he wrote, “Elizabetta 


lay down beside me on the bed. Her hand reached for mine. She 
snuggled against my body for the comforting human warmth of 
it, murmured ‘Until morning,’ and went to sleep. And calmly, 
sweetly, sleep came to me.” 

Reed returned to Chihuahua, and waited for Villa to march on 
Torreon. Villa, instead, went to Juarez to supervise the arrival 
of supplies that, now President Wilson had lifted the embargo, 
were pouring into Mexico. Reed followed him, mterviewing him 
after his secret conference with General Scott on the inter- 
national bridge between Juarez and El Paso. He covered the 
Benton case for the World, and interviewed Maximo Castillo. 
Benton, a Scotch land-owner in Juarez, a multi-millionaire, had 
protested against the stealing of his cattle, and had, the Constitu- 
tionalists charged, threatened Villa with a revolver. His execu- 
tion was celebrated by the interventionists in El Paso. Castillo, a 
follower of Zapata, had crossed the border, closely pursued by 
Villa’s men, and was interned in Fort Bliss. Villa asked to have 
the chance to execute him, and charged that he was responsible 
for the Cumbre tunnel disaster. His life threatened both by 
Americans and by Villa’s followers, he was closely guarded by 
United States troops. To Reed, he gave a long statement, assert- 
ing his innocence and describing Villa as a man of no principles. 
Villa, when Reed told him over the telephone, said, “What do 
you think, amigo?” and announced that, if the United States 
would turn Castillo over to him, his principles would become 
clear enough. 

Meanwhile, Reed had established contact again with his friends 
in New York. Hovey of the Metropolitan wired on February 
17, “Battle article received. Nothing finer could have been writ- 
ten. You are sending us great stuff. We are absolutely delighted 
with your work.” And a few minutes later he sent a second 
telegram: “Rush us good picture of yourself. Local color stuff, 
uniform if possible.” And on the twentieth Max Eastman tele- 
graphed; “ ‘Mac— American’ is a peach.” 

Reed remained a fortnight in El Paso, and the more he saw of 
his fellow-citizens, the more warmly he felt towards the Mexi- 
cans he had lived with in Durango. He had lunch one day with a 

12 $ 


man who claimed to be a special agent for William Randolph 
Hearst’s Mexican possessions. “Madero,” he said, “sure I knew 
Madero, Why, I’ll tell you. He was a dreamer. He was a crazy 
man. He wanted to let the Mexicans govern themselves. He be- 
heved that everybody was good. Ain’t that a hell of an idea for 
a man to have in Mexico?” 

“It’s a quaint enough idea in El Paso,” Reed answered, look- 
ing about the lobby. There they were: a former butcher who 
did the work for the Terrazas land ring; the man who, in the 
Diaz regime, had debauched the state of Chihuahua; a German 
merchant who had given $30,000 to Villa’s enemies; a group 
of Spaniards expelled from Chihuahua for openly aiding the 
enemies of the revolution; and white-haired General Don Luis 
Terrazas, who had once owned seventeen million acres, three- 
quarters of the state of Chihuahua. 

“They got a right to fight, I suppose,” said the Hearst man, 
“so long as they don’t bother anybody’s property. But when 
they start taking away property that belongs to a man—” 

“But look here,” Reed remonstrated, “didn’t the Terrazas 
and Creel outfits steal this land from the peons?” 

“Steal!” said the man, offended. “Hell, no! They got a deed 
for everything they own.” 

“You see,” he went on, “the American people don’t under- 
stand the Mexican character. Why, we’d have had intervention 
long ago, except that the people of the East and Middle West 
have a false idea of allowing the Mexicans a democratic govern- 
ment. We down here along the border know the Mexicans bet- 
ter than that.” 

Reed began to discover some things about “the Mexican char- 
acter.” What one was told depended, he found out, on whether 
one was a potential investor or a journalist who might write 
something about intervention. Investors were told that Mexicans 
were gentle, patient, good workers, and honest; journalists that 
they were treacherous, untruthful, lazy, and cruel. Journalists 
learned that Mexicans could never become skilled workmen; 
investors that they were easy to train. Journalists were warned 
that Mexicans were given to strikes and violence; investors heard 
tales of their docihty. The bravery of the Mexicans was de- 


scribed to the investors; the journalists were informed that they 
were cowards, any six of whom could be beaten by a single 

El Paso was even more crowded than it had been two months 
before with reporters, detectives, and secret agents. Reed, re- 
turning from his weeks at the front, was a little contemptuous 
of the reporters who sat around hotel lobbies and, over their 
.liquor, wrote colorful accounts of what was happening five 
hundred miles away. The detectives amused him, with their 
secretive airs and their confidential tales. The Wall Street agents 
he hated. 

It was with some relief that he slipped away across the border 
and into the desert. He needed to be among the peons again, to 
listen to their songs and stories and discuss with them their hopes. 
He was gone for three or four days, returning fuU of enthu- 
siasm once more. He brought with him half a dozen ballads, to 
add to those he had already collected in Durango. There were 
love-songs, pathetic, humorous, tender. And there were the in- 
numerable verses that told of Villa’s greatness and Huerta’s 
villainy. This was the Mexico he loved. 

He did not love the First Chief of the revolution, Venustiano 
Carranza. Before he met him, he contrasted the feudal aristo- 
crat, sitting idle in Nogales, with the peon who was re-making 
Chihuahua and completing his plans for the march on Mexico 
City. Villa might be a savage, but he was a fighter, and he gave 
the peons something besides promises. To the campaign that had 
won practically the whole of northern Mexico for the Constitu- 
tionalists, Carranza, so far as Reed could see, had contributed 
nothing but congratulations. 

Carranza became so completely inactive that, Reed wrote with 
some irony, rumors grew of his death or disappearance. The 
World sent Reed to Nogales to find out what had happened. He 
arrived at midnight in the big straggling town that combines 
Arizona’s Nogales and Mexico’s. He crossed the international 
boundary, undisturbed by the lounging Mexican sentries at the 
customs-house, and went to the hotel at which the cabinet- 
members were staying. The proprietor kicked on various doors, 
until he discovered the collector of customs, who waked up the 


secretary of the navy, who routed out the secretary of the 
treasury, who discovered the secretary of hacienda, who pro- 
duced the secretary for foreign relations, Isidro Fabela. Senor 
Fabela assured Reed that Carranza would see him but would 
only answer questions that had been submitted in writting. 
When, the next morning, he saw the questions that Reed had 
prepared, he shook his head, but agreed to submit them, and to 
bring such answers as were vouchsafed within twenty-four 
hours. In the meantime Reed would be permitted to shalce hands 
with the chief but not to interview him. 

For an hour or more Reed and another reporter waited in 
the patio of the municipal palace. Self-important Mexicans 
rushed about with portfolios and bundles of paper. When a door 
opened, they could hear the roar of typewriters. General Obre- 
gon talked loudly to a woman colonel about his plans for the 
march on Guadalajara. American concession-seekers and muni- 
tion-salesmen shifted from one foot to another, hats in their 
hands. Sentries guarded the entrance to Carranza’s office, and 
only Fabela and those he took Avith him entered. 

Finally Fabela beckoned the two journalists, and they walked 
into the room. The blinds were closed, and the room was dark. 
There was an unmade bed, a breakfast tray, a bucket of ice 
with three or four bottles of wine. Carranza, a gigantic, khaki- 
clad figure, sat in a big chair. “There was something strange in 
the way he sat there, with his hands on the arms of the chair, 
as if he had been placed in it and told not to move. He did not 
seem to be thinking, nor to have been working . . . You got the 
impression of a vast, inert body— a statue.” When he rose, he 
towered to a tremendous height. Reed felt, though he could not 
say why, that the man was unwell. Even in the half-light that 
came 'through shaded windows, he wore smoked glasses, and 
there seemed something unnatural about his ruddy complexion. 
His mouth suggested indecisiveness to Reed, who noticed his 
habit of gnawing his beard and clenching his fists. 

When they had shaken hands and Fabela was ready for the 
reporters to withdraw, Reed said, “The World is a friend of the 
Constirationahsts, and is against intervention.” Carranza stood 
there, a huge mask of a man, and his face remained vacant, but 


he stopped smiling and suddenly launched into a harangue on 
the Benton case. It was England’s affair, he said and the United 
States should keep out of it. Fabela tried to stop him, but he 
hastened on, his voice higher and louder. “England, the bully of 
the world,” he screamed, “finds herself unable to deal with us 
unless she humiliates herself by sending a representative to the 
Constitutionalists; so she tried to use the United States as a cat’s 
paw. More shame to the United States that she allowed herself 
to join with these infamous Powers. I tell you that, if the United 
States intervenes in Mexico upon this petty excuse, intervention 
will not accomplish what it thinks, but will provoke a war 
which, besides its own consequences, will deepen a profound 
hatred between the United States and the whole of Latin Amer- 
ica, a hatred which will endanger the entire political future of 
the United States!” 

He stopped talking, “as if something inside had cut off his 
speech.” Fabela hurried them from the room. Reed, in full agree- 
ment with Carranza’s words on intervention, could only inter- 
pret them in the light of his impression of the man: “I tried to 
think that here was the voice of aroused Mexico thundering at 
her enemies; but it seemed like nothing so much as a sHghtly 
senile old man, tired and irritated.” 

The next day Reed received the answers to his questions, writ- 
ten in five different hands. He paid little attention to them. He 
felt sure that Carranza and his associates were petty bureaucrats, 
with no thought for the peons, no plan for fundamental reform, 
aimless if not corrupt. Before he left Nogales, he had a last 
ghmpse of the First Chief. As he lounged in the patio, talking 
with some soldiers, the door of the office opened, and Carranza 
stood there, “arms hanging loosely by his sides, his fine old head 
thrown back, as he stared bhndly over our heads across the wall 
to the flaming clouds in the west.” He stood there for a long 
time, his hands clasped behind his back and his fingers working 
violently. “Then he turned, and pacing between the two guards, 
went back to the little dark room.” 

It was a relief to be back in Chihuahua with Villa. The city was 
full of correspondents now, for the march on Torreon was about 


to begin. Reed became friendly with Johnny Roberts, a first- 
rate reporter and a man who knew Mexico. They went together 
to El Cosmopohta, the fashionable gambhng hall, and played 
poker with the resourceful and invincible chief of police. 

When the troops began to leave for Torreon, Roberts, Reed, 
and other reporters secured a box car, had a carpenter fit it with 
bunks, an ice-box, and a stove, and started off with two barrels 
of beer and a Chinese cook. Villa attached the car to one of the 
long trains that carried his supplies and the soldiers and their 
women and children. As the train started off into the desert, 
Reed whooped like an Indian. The soldiers displayed their exu- 
berance by shooting at the insulators on the telegraph lines. 

They made camp at Yermo in the midst of miles and miles of 
sandy desert, with jagged, tawny mountains in the west. Along 
the single track lay ten enormous trains, and about them nine 
thousand men were camped. A great cloud of dust rose, seven 
miles long and a mile high. From around the campfires the in- 
terminable stanzas of “La Cucaracha” went on and on. 

On Thursday Villa arrived, having stopped at the wedding of 
a friend. “I danced too much,” he said. “All worn out. But what 
a dance! And what beautiful girls!” That night there was a 
heavy wind, a deluge of rain, and bitter cold. But the next morn- 
ing the sun was out, and the trains moved on. Reed went to see 
Villa, in his famous red caboose, and asked for a horse, which 
was refused. He also asked about the presidency, and Villa, again 
protesting his loyalty to Carranza, threatened to expel from 
Mexico the next reporter who questioned him on that subject. 

The troops left their crowded cars at BermejUlo and Mapimi, 
on the outskirts of Torreon. On his way towards the Constitu- 
tionalists’ lines Monday morning, Reed met wounded soldiers, 
and could hear the crash of exploding shrapnel, the whistle of 
shells, the nervous rattle of machine-gun fire, and the continuous 
chatter of rifles. As he reached the ridge on which the cannons 
were being placed, he saw the smokestacks of Gomez, suburb of 
Torreon and Villa’s first objective. Villa himself rode up to in- 
spect the placing of the guns, and, seeing Reed, asked him how 
he liked the fighting. “Fine,” Reed answered. “Good,” said 
Villa. “You’re going to see plenty.” 


He did. That night Villa led a party of soldiers, carrying 
bombs and cigars from which to light the fuses, to the walls of 
the Gomez Palacio. The next day he took the Palacio, and hur- 
tled on into Torreon. An epidemic of cholera had killed hun- 
dreds of F ederal soldiers, and the streets were full o£ corpses. In 
blasting heat, with little sleep and often not enough food, Reed 
followed the course of the battle. He drank water that the Fed- 
erals had poisoned, and spent a night of misery. 

Thrown back into the Gomez Palacio by a surprise attack. 
Villa lost Torreon and was threatened by complete defeat. With 
ghastly loss of life, his troops held the Palacio, and began to press 
forward again into the barricaded streets of Torreon. When the 
reporters, after a week of almost complete censorship, were per- 
mitted to use the telegraph wires from Gomez, Reed devoted 
most of his dispatch to an account of the cost of the victory and 
the heroism of the men. And still the fighting continued, as the 
Federals, whose lines of communication had been captured and 
who could not retreat, were driven back from bmlding to build- 
ing and from one impromptu fortress to another. 

In the end John Reed was bored with slaughter. The censor- 
ship was resumed, and reporters were forbidden to leave until 
after Torreon had been taken. Saturday he and a photographer 
bribed a section-hand to let them use a gasoline car on the rail- 
road to Bermejillo, where they caught a hospital train that was 
going to Chihuahua. They lay on the roof of the caboose, some- 
times sleeping as the train made its slow way. The^lyounded 
moaned and cried, and those who died were pushed out of the 
cars by the side of the track. On Monday he reached ]£l Paso, 
and sent to the World an account of the battle. It was not until 
Thursday, however, that Villa completed the conquest of Tor- 
reon. The next day he was in Juarez, and Reed telegraphed to 
the W orld his account of his plans for the campaign on Monte- 
rey and Mexico City. 

Reed had no desire to see more killing. The memories of the 
battle of Torreon he cherished were those of chance conversa- 
tions with soldiers, and his meeting with his old friends of 
Urbina’s troop. There was one incident that he recalled with par- 
ticular pleasure. He had bought a horse and ridden to a moun- 


tain outpost, where he had discovered just such a band as La 
Tropa. The men were not disciplined professional soldiers, but 
peons who had taken arms for liberty. They insisted on his hav- 
ing lunch with them, and the colonel, eager to engage in the 
exchange of ideas, apologized politely when a skirmish with Fed- 
eral troops interrupted their talk. It was the presence of such 
men in Villa’s army that made the capture of Torreon important. 

In El Paso, Reed discovered that he had a reputation as a war- 
correspondent. The first of the articles on La Tropa had ap- 
peared in the April Metropolitan, heralded by large advertise- 
ments in the daily press: “John Reed in Mexico. Word pictures 
of war by an American Kipling. Hot from the front has come 
John Reed’s first story of Mexico. . . . It’s literature. What 
Stephen Crane and Richard Harding Davis did for the Spanish- 
American War in 1898, John Reed, twenty-six years old, has 
done for Mexico.” Even the chill intellect of Walter Lippmann 
was moved to enthusiasm. “It’s kind of embarrassing,” he wrote 
Reed, “to tell a fellow you know that he’s a genius, but you’re in 
a wild country now. I can’t begin to tell you how good the arti- 
cles are. , . . You have perfect eyes, and your power of telling 

leaves nothing to be desired If all history had been reported 

as you are doing this. Lord! I say that with Jack Reed reporting 
begins. Incidentally, of course, the stories are literature.” 

Reed knew as well as any one else that he had never done 
better writing, never done writing one half as good. He had, as 
Lippmann said, perfect eyes. After three minutes in a room, he 
could describe its contents. And Mexico held his eyes as no 
country had ever done. He had always been occupied, ever since 
Copey in Enghsh 12 lectured him about “high visibility,” with 
finding the right words, the true images, to render what he saw. 
In Mexico the images seemed to come with the perception. At 
night, as he scribbled in his notebook, the scenes of the day stood 
sharply before him, and he described them in phrases that 
scarcely needed to be modified when his articles were composed. 
He did not hesitate to re-arrange incidents to suit whatever pat- 
tern he desired, but he was rigorously faithful to the visual im- 


pression of each event. He was indifferent to the accuracy of the 
historian, but he had the integrity of a poet. 

Insurgent Mexico, made out of his articles for the Metropoli- 
tan and the Masses, is a book for the eye. But John Reed was not 
merely recording surfaces. The book has its own kind of insight. 
He made little effort to understand the history of the country 
and its revolutions, and his researches into economics were im- 
pressionistic. Steffens could have told him more about Federal 
and Constitutionalist policies than he could have learned if his 
four months’ stay had been prolonged for four years. But he 
knew something that Steffens did not, and something that, in his 
mind, was more important than aU Steffens’ knowledge; he knew 
the people of Mexico. “He did not judge,” Lippmann wrote in 
a cooler mood; “he identified himself with the struggle, and 
gradually what he saw mingled with what he hoped. Whenever 
his sympathies marched with the facts, Reed was superb.” 

Lippmann’s distinction between sympathies and facts would 
have meant little to John Reed. What he hoped grew out of 
what he saw, and therefore he found no reason for keeping them 
separate. Everything that he was responded to the heroic strug- 
gle of long oppressed peoples for a decent life. “Liberty,” said 
a barefooted peon in Urbina’s army, “is when I can do as I 
want.” Reed could think of no better definition. What they 
wanted, he discovered, was romance rather than comfort, glamor 
rather than wealth. There was no condescension in his calling 
them “delightfully irresponsible”; responsibility seemed to him 
far less important than the ability to live in the moment that was 
present. They should have freedom because they were brave 
enough to fight for it and wise enough to use it. 

In identifying himself ■with the wild fighting men of Villa’s 
army, Reed did more than discover a cause to believe in. He 
learned that fear could be conquered: “I discovered that bullets 
are not very terrifying, that the fear of death is not such a great 
thing.” And the fact that these men accepted him, wanted him 
with them, made sacrifices for him, gave him back the confidence 
he had lost after his flight to Italy and the collapse of the Pater- 
son strike. “I found myself again,” he recorded, and added, as a 
simple corollary, “I wrote better than I had ever written.” 

Between Wars 

M abel Dodge came down to El Paso to meet him. He must 
have felt a little better about their relationship. He was 
no longer the promising poet who had caught the fancy 
of a rich, intelligent, aggressive woman; he was a man who had 
been accepted by Villa and his fighters and been hailed as the 
ablest of war-correspondents. 

In New York his friends were eager to listen to his stories, 
which were sometimes accurate and always colorful. Copey 
praised the Mexican articles. Colonel Harvey told a friend that 
they were the best war-reporting he had ever read. Reed pol- 
ished up for the Metropolitan his account of the battle of Tor- 
reon and his interview with Carranza, and worked at briefer 
sketches for the Masses. 

During his absence there had been savage warfare in which 
the police had broken up meeting after meeting of the unem- 
ployed. The I.W.W. and the anarchists had entered the fight for 
free speech, and scores of skulls had been cracked. Both radicals 
and police were preparing for a battle on the Saturday after 
Reed’s return. Lincoln Steffens, who had seen the violence of 
the preceding weekend, went to Colonel Arthur Woods, just 
about to be appointed commissioner of police, and told him it 
was the forces of law and order that made riots. Impressed, 
Woods called off the police. Reed was sent by the World— is a 
young man who had been jailed a year ago for activities on 
behalf of the I.W.W.— to report the meeting. Steffens was right: 
there was no violence. 

Mexico was still foremost in Reed’s mind. On April 21, 1914, 




American marines took Vera Cruz. Though Reed believed that 
Wilson’s purpose was to hasten the downfall of Huerta, he 
feared lest the interventionists seize the opportunity to arouse 
public sentiment for the conquest of aU Mexico. The World, 
which had opposed intervention, joined the clamor for a march 
on Mexico City. Reed sought an interview with Joseph Pulitzer 
and urged him to take an unambiguous stand for Mexican de- 
mocracy. The next day an editorial appeared. “There will be no 
permanent peace in Mexico,” it said, “until the peon is on the 
land that belongs to the peon, and he is protected in his owner- 
ship.” It praised President Wilson’s refusal to recognize Huerta, 
defended him from the criticism of “men who profit by the reign 
of tyranny and privilege and corruption,” and pledged its sup- 
port to the Constitutionalist struggle to emancipate the Mexican 

Reed had his own say in a statement printed by the New York 
Times on April 27, just as the threat of war was gravest. The 
headlines told of martial law at Vera Cruz, the shooting of 
treacherous Mexicans, the tearing down of an American flag at 
Monterey, the rescue of an American consul. Reed’s statement, 
wliich was reprinted in pamphlet form by the American Asso- 
ciation for International Conciliation, tried to break through the 
misunderstandings that were creating a popular sentiment for 
war. It won the praise of many people, and in its June issue the 
Metropolitan printed it, slightly changed, as a signed editorial, 
with a note remarking on the attention that had been paid the 
author’s comments and observations, “even in the highest cir- 

The article summed up the lessons of four months in Mexico. 
Reed began by denying that the revolution was being made by 
the middle class. It was a revolt of the peons-eighty percent of 
the population— who were fighting for land. He described the 
Diaz regime, the passing of the laws that permitted the small 
minority of Spanish aristocrats to seize the land that the peons 
had worked for generations, the sale of natural resources to for- 
eign capital, the restriction of education, the supplying of forced 
labor to British and American corporations, the shooting of all 
who protested. “It is common to speak of the Orozco revolu- 


tion,” he wrote, “the Zapata revolution, and the Carranza revo- 
lution. As a matter of fact, there is and has been only one revolu- 
tion in Mexico. It is a fight primarily for land.” The peons would 
follow any man, from Madero to Villa, who would promise 
reform, and they would turn against him if the reforms were not 
made. In three years of revolution they had learned much, and 
their struggle would not cease until they had what they wanted. 

Slowly progress was being made. “We Americans, if we enter 
Mexico, are going to check all this. The first American soldier 
across the Rio Grande means the end of the Mexican revolution. 
. . . The Government of the United States has already expressed 
itself as opposed to the confiscation of private property; and the 
land question in Mexico cannot be settled in any other way.” 
And if we did set up a government of our making in Mexico 
City, and then kept our promise to withdraw, we should simply 
leave things worse than they were before: “the great estates 
securely re-established, the foreign interests stronger than ever, 
because we supported them, and the Mexican revolution to be 
fought aU over again in the indefinite future.” 

He tried to be calm and rational, but he could not conceal the 
bitterness against the interventionists that love of Mexico, added 
to hatred of capitalist greed, had bred. “We Americans,” he said, 
“honestly beheve that we will benefit the Mexicans by for cin g 
our institutions upon them. We do not realize that the Latin 
temperament is different from our own— and that their ideal of 
hberty is broader than ours. We want to debauch the Mexican 
people and turn them into Httle brovm copies of American busi- 
ness men and laborers, as we are doing to the Cubans and the 
Filipinos.” And thinking of his friends in Magistral and Chihua- 
hua and Juarez and Valle Allegre, he wrote: “The American 
soldiers will have nothing serious to anticipate in the opposition 
of the Mexican army. It is the peons and their women, fighting 
in the streets and at the doors of their houses, that they will have 
to murder. It is the patient, generous, ignorant race that has 
struggled for liberty and self-consciousness for four hundred 
years-unorganized and inadequately armed— that they will have 
to shoot down.” 

He told friends that, if the United States invaded Mexico, he 



would join his comrades of La Tropa and fight with them against 
the invaders. And he meant it. He could conceive of no worse 
blow to liberty than the infliction upon Mexico of what he 
called in the Masses “our grand democratic institutions— trust 
government, unemployment, and wage slavery.” 

Exactly the same emotions moved Reed to defense of the Mexi- 
can revolution as had brought him to support of the Paterson 
strike, and in both struggles the enemy was the same, big busi- 
ness. Beyond that, he made no attempt to go. But while he was 
writing and speaking against intervention, another battle be- 
tween capital and labor had ended in bloody slaughter. On April 
20, mihtiamen and mine-guards had marched upon the colony of 
strikers in Ludlow, Colorado, and set fire to the tents, burning 
to death several women and children. 

“When there is war,” said the Metropolitan, “John Reed is the 
writer to describe it.” The Metropolitan had begun to reconsider 
its radicalism. “The kind of Socialism we are preaching,” said 
an editorial, aims to “create a feeling and a desire on the part of 
the prosperous to share that property with the poor and needy.” 
“Apparently the attempt to capitalize Sociahsm itself has failed,” 
Max Eastman commented, “and it remains only to see whether 
any money can still be squeezed out of its name.” But the maga- 
zine was liberal enough to give John Reed a chance to write a 
piece of labor-reporting that was as sohd and as revealing as his 
war-correspondence had been colorful and romantic. 

Reed arrived at Trinidad ten days after the massacre. The 
town seemed quiet enough; stores and moving picture houses 
were open; miners, dressed in their Sunday best, talked good- 
naturedly on the street. Then three mihtiamen came along. 
Everyone stopped, and the mihtiamen walked down the street be- 
tween two hnes of hate. “The strikers spoke no word; they 
never even hissed. They just looked, stiffening hke hunting 
dogs.” Only when the mihtiamen got on the train and left did 
the towii return to life. 

At the Trades Assembly Hall children were singing a song: 

There’s a strike in Colorado for to set the miners free 

From the tyrants and the money-kings and aU the powers that be. 


Along the wall a dozen women crouched with black shawls over 
their heads. Some had lost their husbands, others their children. 
They had all lost whatever goods they possessed. One of them, 
whose husband had been killed in the Tabasco mine before the 
strike, had taken refuge in the cellar of her tent, and militiamen 
had come and robbed her of her little savings. Another had seen 
her husband shot as he tried to get their children to safety. All 
the women crowded around, each telling her story of horror in 
her own language. 

The next day Reed went out to Ludlow. “Stoves, pots and 
pans still half full of food that had been cooking that terrible 
morning, baby-carriages, piles of half -burned clothes, children’s 
toys all riddled with bullets, the scorched mouths of the tent 
cellars . . . this was all that remained of the entire worldly pos- 
sessions of 1,200 people.” He went down into “the death hole,” 
the cellar from which the charred bodies of thirteen women and 
children had been taken. 

He began to reconstruct the story. Elere was southern Col- 
orado, dominated by three coal companies, the largest of them 
controlled by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Most of the towns were 
incorporated, with the superintendent of the mine as mayor. 
The company owned all the houses and the only store. The 
county sheriffs, elected by the companies, made mine-guards 
deputies. The miners were immigrants, many of them imported 
to break the strike of 1903. A miner had to buy his own tools 
for cash; he was charged rent in advance; he had to pay a poll 
tax, though there was no tax on company property; he had to 
pay preacher’s, school, and blacksmithing fees; prices at the com- 
pany store were from twenty-five to one hundred percent higher 
than outside the camp. The operators talked about miners mak- 
ing five dollars a day, but the average gross wage was I2.12, and 
the average working year was 191 days. More people were 
killed in the mines of Colorado than in those of any other state 
in the Union, and yet only once in five years had a coroner’s 
verdict placed the blame for an accident on the company. 

Into southern Colorado came the United Mine Workers. De- 
spite the system of espionage and the ruthless terror, and despite 
all differences of language, organization grew. When the union 



asked the operators to discuss the enforcement of existing laws, 
the answer was the importation from neighboring states of gun- 
men, soldiers of fortune, and ex-policemen. These men were 
sworn in as deputies and armed with rifles, revolvers, and ma- 
chine guns. The strike began in September, and the miners, 
driven from company houses, set up tent colonies at a dozen 
places, the largest at Ludlow. 

The guards frequently shot at strikers, several of whom were 
killed, and the miners began to collect what arms they could. 
When the governor called out the militia, the miners, believing 
the soldiers would protect them from the deputized thugs, re- 
joiced. And at first soldiers and strikers fraternized. But the com- 
manding officer ordered the fraternization to cease, and made 
plans for the cooperation of the militia and the mine-guards. The 
operators began to complain because the governor was not end- 
ing the strike, and he modified his order against bringing in strike- 
breakers. Thousands of men were brought from the East under 
false pretenses and then were forbidden to leave until they had 
worked off their transportation and board. Hundreds of them 
escaped and joined the tent colonies. Mother Jones was arrested, 
and militia cavalry rode down the parade of women organized in 

A Congressional committee came to Colorado to investigate; 
afterwards miners who had testified against the company were 
beaten with rawhide whips and wounded with bayonets. At the 
investigation in Washington, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., stated: 
“We would rather that the unfortunate conditions continue, and 
that we should lose all the millions invested, than that the Ameri- 
can workmen should be deprived of their right, under the Con- 
stitution, to work for whom they please. That is the great prin- 
ciple at stake.” “If I had failed in my duty,” he added, “I would 
resign, but my conscience entirely acquits me.” 

The strikers did not waver, and spirits at Ludlow were buoy- 
ant. On April 19, the militia and the deputies surrounded the 
camp. Militiamen later told Reed that they were ordered to de- 
stroy the tent colony and every living thing in it. Early on the 
morning of the twentieth, three bombs gave the signal, and the 
attack began. Four hundred gunmen swarmed down on the col- 


ony, and the machine guns, mounted on the hillside, were turned 
full on the tents. Finally, when the firing had gone on for hours, 
the militiamen and guards advanced on the colony and set fire to 
the tents. 

The outrage enflamed the workers of Colorado and the coun- 
try against the coal companies. An army of miners, together 
with clerks and schoolteachers and even bankers, seized guns and 
started for Ludlow. Labor unions and citizens’ leagues voted 
money to be sent the strikers for rifles and ammunition. Open 
warfare began. The militia, in an insane frenzy, shot chickens, 
horses, cattle, cats. They destroyed the automobile of a passing- 
stranger. General Chase, the commanding oflicer, refused to 
allow a Red Cross delegation to enter Trinidad. The bodies of 
two women and eleven children had been discovered in the ruins 
of the tent colony, and it was thought that many more had been 
killed. Skirmishes continued between strikers and militia, with 
deaths on both sides, until, on the day of Reed’s arrival. Federal 
troops began their four months’ occupation. 

Reed, enflamed by what he had seen, hastened to Denver, 
where he witnessed Governor Ammons’ cowardly evasions and 
realized his abject subservience to the coal companies. Although 
the captain of one of the militia companies testified that ninety 
percent of his men were mine-guards, Ammons stated, ‘.‘The Col- 
orado National Guard is composed almost exclusively of young 
professional and business men, some of them sons of the best 
families of this state.” Reed, after meeting some of the best fam- 
ilies, families of the coal operators, was prepared to believe thdt 
their sons could have equaled the viciousness of the hired thugs. 
Lieutenant-Governor Fitzgerald said that, even if the strikers’ 
claims regarding the actions of the militia were true, that could 
not justify the attacks on innocent mine-guards and harmless 
scabs and the destruction of mine property. “They have no jus- 
tification,” he cried, “for murdering men whose only offense is 
that they are seeking to earn a living without a permit from the 
United Mine Workers of America. It is terrible to contemplate, 
this merciless slaughter, and it must end.” The officials of the 
state thus shamelessly echoed the words of Rockefeller and his 
associates. J. C. Osgood, president of the Colorado Fuel and 



Iron Company and chairman of the board of directors of the 
Victor American Fuel Company, after saying that a fire had 
been started in the tent colony “in some manner which has not 
yet been investigated or explained,” attributed all the violence to 
the “ignorant foreigners,” who had “practically been made an- 
archists by the labor organizers and agitators sent among them 
by the officers of the United Mine Workers.” Most of the news- 
papers in the East were eager to accept the Rockefeller version 
of what had happened. The New York Sun said editorially; 
“Unfortunately, a generation of truckling to the violent striker 
had bred in labor ranks a belief that the harrying of rival workers 
and the spoiling of plants was the strikers’ accorded rights. The 
words meant as a warning were taken up by the labor leaders as 
a challenge. Rifles and ammunition were distributed among the 
strikers. Inevitable bloodshed followed. The events in Colorado 
should lead to a re-awakening of consciousness of justice and 
individual rights.” 

Reed spoke at meetings for strikers’ rehef, and worked with 
George Creel and Judge Lindsey to win national support for 
the strike. Upton Sinclair had already gone on to New York 
City and had been arrested for picketing the office of John D. 
Rockefeller, Jr. Reed learned, as Sinclair had already discovered, 
that the Denver newspapers in the employ of the operators 
would hasten to invent scandal about anyone who opposed them. 
In this instance they sought to injure two enemies at once by 
coupling Reed’s name with that of a young widow who had 
been sending aid to the strikers. 

Stopping on his way home at Hull House, in Chicago, where 
Jane Addams invited newspapermen to lunch to hear him talk 
about the strike, Reed returned to New York to write his arti- 
cle. For perhaps the first time in his fife, he was resolved to pre- 
pare a documented case. In Mexico his eyes had given him every- 
thing he needed, but now he went to documents and reports. 
Emotionally aroused, he realized that Ludlow was a clear and 
terrifying example of what the I.W.W. meant by the class strug- 
gle. This was what he must show, beyond any possibility of mis- 
understanding, in his article. If, for the sake of their profits, 
employers would put into motion machinery that ruthlessly extin- 


guished the lives of whole familes, there was but one conceivable 
conclusion: justice could be won for the workers only if they 
would fight back, using the deadly weapons that the employers 
did not hesitate to use against them. The cynical hypocrisy of 
Rockefeller and his associates confirmed the impression that the 
ruins of the tent colony had given Reed: there was no word for 
this but war. 

Ludlow re-enforced the lesson Paterson had taught— the les- 
son Italy had partly obscured. Never again could anything con- 
ceal from Reed the great cleavage in society between the pro- 
ducers and the exploiters. The class war was a reality, and his 
sympathy for the workers was secure. The importance of that 
sympathy in the determination of his conduct would vary with 
the rise and fall of other interests and with the character of the 
events into which his headlong impetuosity precipitated him. He 
had no intention of limiting himself to labor organization or even 
to radical journalism, but he knew on which side, whenever 
fighting was necessary, he would fight. 

Mabel Dodge was in Provincetown, and he joined her there. 
She lived in a respectable, well-appointed house, with her son 
and her servants, and Reed lived in a small camp near the ocean. 
They were frequently together, and for a time it seemed that 
the difficulties of the preceding autumn had vanished. 

During the day Reed worked hard on his book and the articles 
that he was writing. Fred Boyd, who was serving as his secretary 
and assistant, would take down from dictation the first draft, 
and, as he transcribed it, would make suggestions for amplifica- 
tion, especially with regard to economics. Reed appreciated 
Boyd’s wide experience in the labor movement and his knowl- 
edge of economic theory, but there was often difficulty in uni- 
fying the two types of material. While the final revision was 
going on, Reed would walk up and down the room, growing 
warmer and warmer as problem followed problem. His coat 
would come off, his tie, his shirt, and sometimes his trousers and 
his underwear. 

When the manuscript of Insurgent Mexico was ready for the 


publisher, Reed dedicated it to Copey: “To listen to you is to 
learn how to see the hidden beauty of the visible world; to be 
your friend is to try to be intellectually honest.” 

Reed was still thinking a great deal about Mejdco, and won- 
dering how to thwart the plans of the interventionists. He con- 
ceived the idea of interviewing President Wilson, both with the 
intention of telling Wilson his own opinions about Mexico and 
with the hope of persuading the President to express his views 
in such a manner as to aid the revolution and restrain the Ameri- 
can foes of Mexican democracy. Steffens was skeptical, perhaps 
of the character of the information Reed would give Wilson, 
certainly of the possibility of conducting a publishable interview, 
but Reed went ahead. 

He arrived in Washington in the middle of June and called on 
Secretary of State Bryan, to whom he had letters. As he stepped 
up to the door, he heard the maid singing hymns in the kitchen 
as she washed the dishes. She showed him into the parlor, and 
called, “Mr. Secretary! Mr. Secretary! Here’s somebody to see 
you!” A voice called out, “I’ll be right down.” Reed looked 
around. “The parlor,” he recorded, “was a remarkable room. 
Two enormous Oriental vases flanked the mantel-piece, at whose 
center sat a large bronze bust of William Jennings Bryan. There 
were other busts of him scattered about— of wood, marble, gran- 
ite, cast-iron, and silver-gilt metal. Incongruous rugs lay upon 
the carpet, and several tall oil-paintings caught the eye. The 
furniture was hair-cloth, of the best period. And I retain an im- 
pression of lace window-curtains. Bead curtains separated the 
parlor from the dining-room, and through these the maid pres- 
ently passed, still singing.” 

Mr. Bryan appeared, “wearing that famous cutaway of his, 
those famous half-glasses of his on the wide statesman’s black rib- 
bon, the well-known clerical white bow tie, and that familiar 
and appalling smile.” After they had talked for a while, Mr. 
Bryan speaking “in the way a statesman should— slowly, impres- 
sively, and with massive seriousness,” and Reed eagerly hasten- 
ing on with his impressions of Villa, the Secretary unburdened 
himself. “Mr. Reed,” he said, with a troubled expression, “I must 
confess to you that there is one thing that I cannot understand 


about the Mexicans. Do you know, when one faction captures a 
soldier of another faction, they stand him up against the wall 
and shoot him down! ” 

But Mr. Bryan was in favor of any policy that would preserve 
peace, and he undertook to make an appointment for Reed with 
the President. Precisely at the assigned moment, he was led into 
the executive offices. Mr. Wilson, dressed in white flannels, sat 
at his desk alone in the middle of the great round chamber. Re- 
membering the noisy energy of Theodore Roosevelt, Reed was 
chiefly impressed with the calmness of the office. The President 
shook hands in a friendly, unaffected way, and Reed felt at ease. 
He noticed the quiet, tired eyes, the lack of gestures, the even, 
gentle voice, and the mobile, revealing lips. 

Reminding Reed that he was not to be quoted, Wilson spoke 
frankly. His policy towards Mexico was the traditional policy 
of the early days of the Repubhc, a policy of friendliness to all 
strivings of the oppressed and of opposition to all tyranny. The 
refusal to recognize the Huerta regime was not based on Huerta’s 
assassination of Madero but on the fact that it was not a govern- 
ment by the people. Wilson strongly opposed interference in 
Mexican affairs. The occupation of Vera Cruz did not constitute 
interference; its aim was merely to check the series of provoca- 
tions by which Huerta, in a desperate attempt to unite the Mexi- 
can people in his support, sought to force intervention. The only 
weapon the government had used against Huerta was non-rec- 
ognition. The pohcy of non-interference would also apply if the 
Constitutionalists should confiscate the great estates to provide 
land for the peons. The President would prefer to see the land- 
owners compensated, but he would make no demand that this be 
done. So far as his powers permitted, he would prevent the ex- 
ploitation of the Mexican people either by Mexican tyrants or 
by foreign capitalists, but he would in no way curb the will of 
the people themselves. 

Reed, though he had learned to be wary of liberals, was im- 
pressed. He was a little shocked that problems seemed so simple 
to Wilson, that he seemed so confident in the ability of democ- 
racy to cure the evils of capitalism, but he left the executive 
chamber convinced that Wilson was sincere in his fight against 



''the small predatory minorities which balk the people’s struggle 
for intelligence and life.” What chiefly made him tolerant of 
Wilson, however, was that the President, so far as Mexico was 
concerned, was on the right side. 

Reed reported the interview in the way that he hoped would 
do the most good. "I appreciate your desire to help,” the Presi- 
dent wrote, “and your whole spirit in this matter.” But he would 
not be quoted. His secretary explained: “The President opened 
his mind to you completely, with the understanding that you 
were not to quote him. If you were to recast the article so as to 
leave out all quotes and all intimations of directly echoing what 
the President said, and confine yourself to your own impressions 
received from the interview, I think it would be possible to 
authorize its publication.” Reed did his best, but when he had 
made the article safe, from the President’s point of view, it was 
so void of news-value that the editors of the Metropolitan would 
not print it. 

Steffens had proven at least partly right, and Reed was dis- 
appointed. But there was swimming at Provincetown and there 
were talks with the people who came there, his friends and 
Mabel Dodge’s and the artists and writers and radicals who were 
spending the summer on Cape Cod. The appearance of the Lud- 
low article brought high praise and the satisfaction of a letter 
from Carl Hovey, reporting that a bookstore in Denver had 
cancelled its standing order for fifty Metropolitans as a protest 
against “the vile unwarranted sensational lies” and “untruthful 
filth” of his article. Lazily he made his plans. He \^anted to visit 
Joe Adams, who was at Saranac with tuberculosis. He wanted to 
interest some one in a collection of Mexican ballads and a trans- 
lation of the miracle play he had seen. His mind was full of ideas 
for poems and plays and short stories and novels. Hovey and he 
devised plans for Metropolitan articles. But all that could wait; 
there was plenty of time. 


This Is Not Our War 

C ARL Hovey kept his eyes on Europe, and by the end of 
July he wired Reed, asking him to be ready to go to 
France as the Metropolitan’s war-correspondent. Mabel 
Dodge was indignant at the interruption of the Provincetown 
idyU, but, almost before she could explain the unimportance of 
wars, Reed was on his way to Portland, for the first visit he had 
paid his mother in two years. He found that his fame had 
reached the city, and persons who once had made fun of him 
were now eagerly proposing teas, luncheons, and dinners. He 
took pleasure enough in the recognition of his success, but the 
afFairs themselves bored him, and he was glad to escape from the 
stuffy atmosphere of polite parlors to an I.W.W. hall in which 
Emma Goldman was speaking. There he met a young artist, Carl 
Walters, and his wife. It was surprising to find an artist in Port- 
land, and especially a good one, and Reed, learning that no one 
was paying any attention to Walters’ work, wrote an article 
about it for the local paper. He would like to have seen more of 
Carl and Helen Walters, but his mother was eager to have all of 
his time. And after all, it was only a few days before, proud and 
worried, she saw him start back across the continent on the fast- 
est, most expensive train available. 

There was an Englishman on the train— a clean-cut young 
man, with nice color, a neat mustache, clothes that fitted exqui- 
sitely, and shoes much too large. When tea was served, the cattle- 
kings and wheat-barons and their wives watched him eagerly 
as a guide to proper procedure. Reed was fascinated by the abso- 
lute correctness of everything the man did, and could not resist 




the temptation to make the strange creature talk. He was going 
back to fight, not because he liked the French or hated the Ger- 
mans, but because he came from an army family; there were no 
underlying causes of the war; there could be no revolution in 
England because British laborers were very well-paid “for per- 
sons of their class.” “He was a splendid sight,” Reed recorded, 
“as he stepped along the platform, the pink of young English 
manhood, the quintessence of that famous Enghsh ruhng class 
that has made itself the greatest empire the world has ever seen— 
without the least idea what it was doing. He went to glory or 
the grave, fearless, handsome, unemotional, one hundred and 
sixty pounds of bone and muscle and gentle blood, with the in- 
side of his head exactly like an Early Victorian drawing-room, 
all knick-knacks, hair-cloth furniture, and drawn blinds.” 

Armed with a letter Secretary Bryan had given him “to the 
diplomatic and consular officers of the United States in Europe,” 
Reed prepared to sail. New York seemed to him unchanged by 
the war. Aside from the extra editions of the papers, which con- 
tained unprecedentedly large headlines, scanty accounts of the 
conflict, and long editorials describing the advantages that would 
accrue to the United States from the war, the city was still John 
Reed’s playground. But he had a sense that all this was soon to 
be changed. 

For John Reed knew what was happening. “The real war,” he 
wrote in the Masses, “of which this sudden outburst of death and 
destruction is only an incident, began long ago. It has been rag- 
ing for tens of years, but its battles have been so little advertised 
that they have been hardly noted. It is a clash of traders.” The 
German Empire began, he pointed out, as a trade agreement, and 
not merely the German army but the whole imperial system had 
been tolerated by the progressive burghers of the country be- 
cause they believed that commercial advantage would depend on 
armed force. The French and English traders, having seized the 
most desirable colonies while Germany was disorganized, talked 
hypocritically about peace and the status quo. France blocked 
German trade expansion in northern Africa; England checked 
her advance in Asia Minor. It was no wonder that the business 
men of Germany supported the Kaiser in his belligerent gestures. 


His talk about blood and iron was nauseating, but Reed found it 
less sickening than “the raw hypocrisy of his armed foes, who 
shout for a peace which their greed has rendered impossible.” 

And he regarded as even more disgusting “the editorial chorus 
in America which pretends to believe— would have us believe— 
that the White and Spotless Knight of Modern Democracy is 
marching against the Unspeakably Vile Monster of Medieval 
Militarism.” “What has democracy to do,” he asked, “in alliance 
with Nicholas the Tsar? Is it Liberalism which is marching from 
the Petersburg of Father Gapon, from the Odessa of pogroms?” 
“We must not be duped,” he insisted, “by this editorial buncome 
about Liberalism going forth to Holy War against Tyranny. 
This is not Our War.” 

On the evening of August 14, Reed had dinner with Fred 
Boyd and Edward Hunt on the roof of the Astor Hotel. All 
tluee of them were saihng that night, on three different ships. 
Reed, in accordance with plans he had formulated with Whig- 
ham and Hovey, was going to Italy, to report that country’s 
entrance into the war on the side of Germany and Austria. 
Hunt, representing the American Magazine, was going to Hol- 
land, to see the Dutch open the dikes when the Germans began 
their expected invasion. And Boyd was returning to England to 
take part in the revolution that, he was altogether certain, would 
break out within a few months. 

On board Reed’s ship there were two Italian nobles, an Italian 
capitalist who owned a silk mill in Paterson and had helped break 
the strike, several German barons, an Austrian count, and ofE- 
cers of all nationalities. They habitually referred to the people 
in the steerage as “vermin” and “animals.” From the spaciousness 
and cleanliness of the first-class deck, they leaned their pongee 
and silken breasts on the rail and looked down upon the seething 
life beneath them. When a sailor turned a stream of water on an 
old man who had fallen asleep, the old man cursed, and the other 
steerage passengers muttered sullenly, but the persons in pongee 
and silk were amused, all except the Paterson manufacturer, 
who had felt the strength of the “vermin,” and who shouted, 
“The beasts! They ought to be shot or starved to death.” 

Next to the suffering of the workers in the steerage, workers 



going home to be shot for the sake of the kind of men who 
laughed from the first-class deck at their misfortunes, what chiefly 
impressed Reed was the friendliness of the different nationalities. 
Two Germans, an Italian, and a Frenchman, all on their way 
to join their respective armies, played bridge together daily. The 
Germans and Italians read French novels. One German had 
spent most of his life in Paris; another was a student at Oxford. 
The young Italian marquis had been educated at the Sorbonne 
and had worked on a London newspaper. The wife of one of 
the Frenchmen came from Berlin. “Amusements, education, the 
intellectual strength of every man on board, came, at least in 
part, from the very sources they were going, blindly, to destroy. 
It was all so confused— so unutterably silly.” 

It was so silly as to be incredible. Even the sight of British 
battleships and torpedo-boats off Gibraltar could not make the 
war seem real. The arrival on board of a British force suggested 
a kind of elaborate, humorless joke. The officers were so ex- 
tremely British, so satisfied with their ignorance of German and 
Italian, so clearly the kind of men who knew cricket and foot- 
ball scores and took a cold tub every morning, that Reed could 
scarcely realize the seriousness of what was happening for the 
German passengers. Fifty of them were taken off the ship to be 
interned. The one man who signed a promise not to fight, though 
he had weak lungs and had long been exempt from military 
service, was scorned by the others. It was more than silly; it was 

As the ship steamed into the harbor of Naples, the singing of 
the men and women in the steerage was sweet and healthy, but 
Italy itself was as mad as the rest of Europe. The pacifists had 
hoped to take advantage of the division of sentiment between 
the party of the Entente, largely made up of industrialists and 
financiers, and the party of the Triple Alliance, the clericals 
and the members of the nobility. But the business men, having 
checked the friends of Germany and Austria, had no intention 
of letting themselves be held back from war by the intellectuals 
and the workers. Their great problem was the unemployed, on 
whom the radicals chiefly relied, and so a movement was started 
to recruit an honorary volunteer regiment for Tripoli. One hun- 


dred and fifty thousand laborers, unable to get either work or 
relief, joined. The trained regiments were brought back and sent 
to the Austrian border, and the most dangerous elements of the 
Italian population were marooned in the Sahara desert. 

It became apparent that nothing worth reporting was likely to 
happen soon in Italy, and Reed went on to Geneva, which glit- 
tered like Monte Carlo at the height of the season. Germans, 
English, and French dined, danced, and gambled together. There 
were gay revues from Paris and famous orchestras and brilliant 
evening clothes. Again Reed felt that war was “a remote, an 
incredible thing.” By general consent, it was seldom mentioned. 
Somebody might say across the table, “Do you suppose that the 
Germans will get to Paris? ” But then one looked across the sun- 
lit lake towards the mountains, with the little villages at their 
foot, and found something else to talk about. 

Reed took what was said to be the last train to Paris. At 
Cernadon they pulled into the station beside ten third-class 
carriages, which rocked with singing and cheering. The doors 
and windows were decorated with green vines and tree-branches, 
through which he could see the young faces and waving arms 
of the class of 1914— “bound for the military centers to undergo 
a training that would stamp out all their impulses and ideas, and 
turn them into infinitesimal parts of an obedient machine to hurl 
against the youth of Germany, who had been treated the same 
way.” The veterans whom he later saw did not cheer or sing; 
they had “the curious, detached professional air of men going 
to work in a silk mill in the morning.” “Beasts, they wisely spent 
their spare time eating, drinking, and sleeping, and for the rest 
obeyed their officers. That was what the class of 1914 would 
become.” With the ten third-class carriages joined to their train, 
they passed through crowded stations, where women cheered 
and wept and waved their handkerchiefs. At Bourg there was a 
glimpse of several cars of wounded men, and the sight of band- 
ages and the smell of iodoform dispelled what was left of the 
sense of war’s unreality. 

The beautiful September morning on which Reed reached 
Paris carried him back-only three years, after all-to the morn- 
ing when he had returned from Spain and had settled down in 



the city. It was just such a day, the kind of day on which Pa- 
risians came back from the country, and the city roused with 
gay expectancy for a new season. But this Paris was dead. There 
were no onmibuses, no trucks, no street-cars. Shutters were 
pulled over store-windows. No one sat before the cafes on the 
Grands Boulevards. Not a person could be seen on the Rue de 
la Paix. Above silent streets the five flags of the allied nations 
drooped somberly. from every window. The flags were every- 
where, ghastly, irrelevant. It was as if the city had decked itself 
out for some vast rejoicing, and then had sickened. At night 
the theatres were closed, and the streets were dark and empty. 
Only the great white beams of the searchUghts could be seen 
crossing the sky, and the one sound that broke the stillness of 
the night was the marching of troops along the cobblestones. 

Reed looked for the courage that he expected from the French, 
and the stoicism that so many correspondents had attributed to 
them. What he found was ignorance and apathy. The rich left 
the city, offering their mansions to the Red Cross in the hope 
that they would be saved from destruction. Shopkeepers boarded 
up their stores and announced that they had joined the army. 
Later he saw the rich come back to their mansions and the 
merchants to their shops. He found the leaders of the Confedera- 
tion Generale du Travail cooperating with the government, and 
the Socialists and syndicalists supporting the war, while the cap- 
italist press called for the suppression of civil rights, under the 
pretense of wartime necessity, and advocated the ending of the 
reforms that labor had won. 

The war no longer seemed siUy; but it was more confusing 
than ever, and infinitely depressing. It was difficult for Reed, 
as he saw the docility of the soldiers, to hold to his belief that 
revolutionary change would come out of the war. Moreover, 
although he had seen nothing of the front, what he witnessed in 
Paris was enough to convince him of the tremendous mechanized 
brutality of the struggle. There was no romance in it. To the 
personal depression of a sensitive young man with a deep feeling 
for humanity’s sufferings was added the disappointment of the 
war-correspondent. Even if he had not been cooped up in Paris 


and half-sick with indigestion, this was not a war he could write 
about as he had written of Villa’s battles in Mexico. 

He sat about with the other correspondents, all of them barred 
from the front, discussing the likelihood of a siege, the causes of 
the war, and the badness of the meals. Occasionally a German 
airplane flew over the city, and citizens would hurry to the roof- 
tops to shoot at it. Official statements spoke only of the success 
of the army’s tactical retreat. As stragglers came into the city, 
the conviction grew that the Germans were within a few miles 
of Paris. Robert Dunn, a correspondent as restless and as defiant 
of fear as Reed himself, suggested that they rent an automobile, 
secure a pass on the pretense that they were going to Nice for 
their health, and try to work their way to the front. 

The pass carried them through the defenses of the city, frantic 
with preparations for a siege, and they soon turned north and 
east. After a time, they began to meet refugees, some pushing on 
towards Paris, others waiting by the roadside, their enormous 
farm-wagons piled high with bedding, furniture, and all the little 
treasures they had been able to snatch. Finally they came to a 
village that had been demolished the day before by the Ger- 
mans. They stopped among the smouldering ruins, and soon a 
crowd of peasant women gathered about the car and, with tears 
and pitiful ejaculations, told of the burning and pillaging of the 

They went on, reached Rozoy, and stopped for lunch. Two 
English correspondents came in, accompanied by two officers. 
The reporters had been arrested for being within the military 
zone, and they warned Reed and Dunn that they, too, would 
be caught. The officers paid no attention to what was none of 
their business, and the two Americans bade farewell to the two 
Englishmen, and went on. They tried by several roads to reach 
the front, but, though they were not arrested, they were in- 
variably sent back. Finally they reached Crecy, where they de- 
cided to spend the night. 

That night Reed fell into conversation with the guard of an 
ammunition dump. The soldiers greeted him with kindly, gentle 
curiosity, and gave him rum. The Germans were no worse than 



others, a man told him. “Lord help us,” he said, “the Germans 
as a rule are good enough chaps. It’s a silly business, this Idlling 
of men.” Another spoke up: “I’m not for war on any count. 
But us Socialists, we’re taking the field to destroy militarism— 
that’s what we’re doing. And when we come back again after 
the war, and Kitchener says to the House of Commons, ‘What 
will we do for these brave soldiers to show our gratitude for 
saving the Empire?’ we’re going to say, ‘You can jest give us the 
Empire.’ ” 

The next morning Dunn and Reed, deciding they could not 
reach the front without official permission, went to British field 
headquarters at Coulommiers. The provost marshal ordered 
them to prepare a written statement, and, as they worked on it, 
the two English correspondents appeared, gloomier than ever. 
The marshal told them they were not under arrest, but ordered 
them confined to their rooms. The correspondent of the London 
Times predicted that they would be given two years in prison, 
but the next morning they found that their sentence was much 
more lenient. They were turned over to the French gendarmerie, 
and sent by slow stages to Tours. There they were made to take 
an oath not to venture within the military zone again. Reed 
asked what would happen if he refused to sign, and the official 
drew his hand across his throat. 

The experience, though they had not reached the front, had 
at least had its exciting moments, and Reed found the inactivity 
of Paris less tolerable than before. He thought of going back to 
Italy, and thence to Austria and Germany, but at the last mo- 
ment he decided to join Fred Boyd in England. Boyd, he dis- 
covered when he reached London, was completely disillusioned. 
Men Boyd had known as ardent pacifists were making recruiting 
speeches, and labor leaders who had pledged themselves to the 
international revolution were talking about the necessity of ex- 
terminating the Huns. He was deep in despair; his own sacri- 
fices and those of thousands of other radicals seemed to have 
accomplished less than nothing. Reed had seen enough to fear 
that his friend was right, and they made a gloomy pair. 

With Boyd’s aid, Reed planned to do an article on England. 


his first impression was that London was quite unaffected by the 
war. “The great gray town,” he wrote, “still pours its roaring 
streams along the Strand and Oxford Street and Piccadilly; end- 
less lines of omnibuses and taxicabs and carriages pass; in the 
morning the clerks go down to the city in their carefully-brushed 
silk hats and thread-bare frock coats,— and the amazing London 
bobbie embodies in his uplifted hand the dignity and precedent 
of the Empire. At night the theatres and restaurants are going 
full blast, thronged with an apparently inexhaustible supply of 
nice young men in faultless evening dress, and beautiful women; 
along Leicester Square and Piccadilly press the same thousands 
and thousands of girls, and the hundreds of slim young men with 
painted lips, which yearly grow to be more characteristic of 
London streets. The same ghastly ragged men rise up out of the 
gutter to open your carriage door; the same bums slouch along 
the benches in Hyde Park.” 

But there was a difference. For one thing there were the pos- 
ters everywhere: “Your King and Country Need You! Enlist 
for the Duration of War. England Needs a Million.” They 
were even on private cars, and once he saw a huge luxurious 
motor, two liveried men on the front seat, a silk-hatted broker 
in the toimeau, and on the back “Lord Kitchener Wants More 

Then there were the soldiers, the officers in the Piccadilly 
crowd, the territorials drilling in Hyde Park, and— of special 
interest— the volunteers. Lord Kitchener’s appeal had, at the end 
of September, brought forth six hundred thousand men. “It is 
magnificent,” Reed wrote, “and infinitely depressing. This pa- 
triotism— what a humanly fine, stupid instinct gives birth to it, 
the sacrifice for an ideal, the self-immolation for something 
greater than self. Generation after generation surging up to the 
guns to be shot to death for an ideal so extremely vague that 
they never know what they are fighting for. Ask one of these 
recruits what England is to him, and you will see that it is noth- 
ing but a name and a feeling. One of the most widespread accusa- 
tions hurled at the Mexican revolutionists by virtuous Americans 
was that they didn’t know what they were fighting for, and the 


English know even less what they are fighting for than the 

He had had many lessons in the power of patriotism, and he 
was not blind to the nobility to be found in even the vaguest 
idealism, but he was also conscious, as he walked about London, 
that other forces had helped to give Kitchener his volunteers. 
The Women’s Patriotic League claimed one hundred thousand 
members, each of whom refused to receive any man not in uni- 
form whose age and condition would permit him to serve in the 
army. Committees of society women stood in front of the Na- 
tional Gallery handing white feathers to civilians who passed by. 
Popular actresses in music halls singled out men in the audience 
and asked them why they did not enlist. Moreover, the paralysis 
of business at the outbreak of the war had thrown thousands of 
men out of work, and neither jobs nor relief would be given 
these men if they were of the age for service. Some firms dis- 
charged all men eligible for the army and fiUed their places with 
older ones. Others promised to help their employees’ families if 
they would enlist and otherwise to discharge them. “It was 
really conscription,” Reed realized, “conscription hiding under 
a pleasanter name, as has always been England’s way— conscrip- 
tion ready to appear in its true colors the minute recruiting fell 

Fundamentally, it seemed to him, the masses of people were 
not interested in the war. They were not much concerned about 
the invasion of Belgium, and the German peril, so terrifyingly 
portrayed by the press, still seemed to them remote. They were 
beginning to be disturbed by British losses, and two months of 
propaganda had had an effect, but in the factory towns of the 
north and west, where business in munitions and army equip- 
ment had brought prosperity, the people were more interested 
in football scores and moving-pictures than in the war. 

It was the aristocracy, Reed came to believe, that wanted the 
war and was forcing it upon the rest of the country. “We in 
America,” he wrote, “have long believed that the British upper 
classes were doomed, that their vitality was gone; and our final 
proof was the bridling of the House of Lords and the triumph 
of Liberalism. And now, like a waking lion, the British aristoc- 


racy crushes our teeming ant-hill with a blow of its paw, and 
shows us again, contemptuously, a servile England split into 
classes, where every man knows his place. Here stands erect 
what we thought was dead— the stupid, sterile, gorgeous Impe- 
rial idea.” 

For Reed, Lord Kitchener embodied that idea; “Kitchener of 
Khartoum is absolute ruler of England— Bloody Kitchener, the 
most complete expression of an imperial policy which has con- 
sisted in blowing men from the mouths of cannon in order to 
civilize them. There is something revolting about Kitchener, 
the cold, the merciless, the efficient— the very Prussian ideal of 
a mihtary man.” It was Kitchener who was making all England 
into a war-machine as efficient as the Kaiser’s. He controlled the 
telephone, the telegraph, the mails. He had cowed the press. The 
English knew only what he wanted them to know. He had sacri- 
ficed Belgium for the sake of England, and, to save England, his 
will had held the French army firm. Through him the aristocracy 
ruled the country. The public school boy— “that peculiar, in- 
human breed of aristocrat, as pestilential as the Prussian Junker” 
—was in the saddle. 

The war was giving conservative England its opportunity. It 
was a fashionable war, with benefit concerts and receptions, at 
which social distinctions were carefully observed. It was true that 
the upper classes not only supported the war with social influ- 
ence and forced their tenants and employees to enlist; they also 
sent their sons. But their sons went, in this great battle for 
democracy, as leaders. A rich American who had lived in Eng- 
land for twenty-five years wrote down for Reed the names of 
the leading families in his part of the country. Then he looked 
up the local regiment in the army fist; almost every ofiicer bore 
one of those names. 

The aristocracy was fighting for survival, and it was ready to 
crush opposition with utter ruthlessness. But, Reed saw to his 
disappointment, there was no opposition worth crushing. He 
had expected much from the intelhgent, politically-conscious 
working class of England, but the workers there seemed as docile 
as those in France. The Socialists, after a few mass meetings at 
the outset, had subsided. The intellectuals, with one or two 



honorable but impotent exceptions, were helping to create the 
myth of the German beast. Only a handful of Liberal and 
Laborite politicians had dared oppose the war, and they had 
been crushed. 

The aristocrats wanted position, power, and prestige. The 
business men wanted, quite simply, the crushing of German 
trade. These two groups, a little minority of men who knew 
what they were after, overcame the inertia of the great major- 
ity. The business men were determined that, wherever Ger- 
many had secured a commercial foothold by superior manufac- 
ture and better salesmanship, English goods must be established. 
German property in England was confiscated, and German 
patents were revoked. A campaign was begun to induce the 
public to buy only goods made in England, and stores that had 
German stocks scratched off the German labels and substituted 
their own. The British fleet virtually blockaded Italy, Holland, 
Norway, and Sweden, to prevent goods from reaching Ger- 
many, and did not hesitate to ruin Swedish industry in the 
process or starve the Dutch people. 

Reed had called it a traders’ war, and it did not take much 
study of England’s policy to prove how right he had been. For 
fifteen years England had been seeking to isolate Germany, just 
as Russia, her ally, had worked for the dismemberment of the 
Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany’s only support. “On my 
map,” Reed wrote, “there is a small collection of islands off the 
northern coast of France, isolated from the Continent by a chan- 
nel, and together a trifle larger than the State of Ohio. From 
there stretch the wires that control a tenth of the earthfe sur- 
face. England’s guns squat in the mouth of the Mediterranean; 
Egypt and Malta are hers; she grips the Red Sea, sucks the blood 
from aU India, menaces half a billion human beings from Hong 
Kong, owns all Australia, half North America, and half of 
Africa. The fleets of the world salute her ensign on every com- 
manding headland, and her long gray battleships steam un- 
opposed from sea to sea. England’s word is said in every council, 
conference, treaty. She is the great intriguer, sitting like a spider 
in the web of nations and disposing of them to her benefit. And 
it was England’s will that Germany should be destroyed.” 


He would have been a poor Socialist if any of this had sur- 
prised him, but he could not help being shocked by the blatant 
hypocrisy of the Empire. The press was trying to popularize 
Russia, talking about the gende Cossacks, the end of pogroms, 
and the growth of civil liberty, though members of Parliament 
spoke openly about the war with Russia to follow the extermina- 
tion of Germany. Much was made of England’s championship 
of treaty obligations and her befriending of smaller nations, 
though England’s bloody record was spread on every history 
book. The very England that had butchered the people of India, 
Chin a, and the Soudan, that had driven the natives of Tasmania 
into a sea-girt corner of the island and slaughtered them like 
rabbits, shrieked about German atrocities, and the England that 
had taken the Elgin Marbles and filled its museums with stolen 
property from Egypt and Greece, called upon the world to 
witness the iniquity of German looting. 

He had no illusions about the superiority of Germany to 
England, but he hated and feared the monstrous hypocrisy of 
imperial policy. He saw clearly the danger of the British cam- 
paign of lies and distortions, which was doubly a menace be- 
cause of British control of the sources of news. The article that 
he wrote in England— an article that the Metropolitan never 
printed— was a warning to America. “Do not be deceived,” he 
cried, “by talk about democracy and liberty. This is not a cru- 
sade against militarism but a scramble for spoils. It is not our 

And, despite the ignominious capitulation of the Socialists, he 
found signs that the people of the Empire might yet see through 
the vast deception. Riots in India, revolts in South Africa, and 
Sinn Fein demonstrations in Ireland hinted that the widely ad- 
vertised loyalty of the colonies might be less strong than the 
press pretended to believe. Even in England the war was gen- 
erally unpopular, and there was some bitterness. “It may be,” he 
wrote, “that when the cold days come and the toll of wounded 
lengthens and the continual slackening of trade grips England 
with poverty labor in England will see its great opportunity, 
and that when this war is done there will be no more Empire.” 


At least one could hope so, though there was little enough evi- 

Reed brought Boyd back to Paris with him. They had to spend 
the night in Calais, and, being restless, bribed a gendarme to tell 
them where there was a bistro that kept open after the nine 
o’clock wartime curfew. There were three submarine sailors in 
the place, two soldiers, and three large and unusually coarse 
women. Reed bought them all champagne, and they began to 
discuss the war. Boyd asked the soldiers and sailors why they 
were fighting. “Because France was invaded,” a sailor said. “But 
the Germans say Germany was invaded,” said Boyd. “That may 
be true,” said the sailor; “perhaps we were both invaded.” 

With Boyd and Andrew Dasburg, Reed started on a walking 
tour through the valley of the Marne, to see the battlefield. 
There was another encounter with the military authorities, this 
time through no fault of Reed’s own, and he was warned that 
he would be expelled from France if he was reported again. 
But he did have an opportunity to see the appalling destruction, 
and, after his disillusionment, the sight created an unfamiliar 
mood in him. He felt for the moment that wars and the struggle 
for peace were of no importance. The traces of the battle were 
already being obhterated. Peasants whose homes had been de- 
stroyed were working in the shell-torn fields. “The plowing and 
the sowing of the harvests, the swinging seasons— cold winters, 
and the stirring of the blood of the world in March— love and 
death and the need of food and clothing, wiU be the only reality 
of their life. As it has been from time immemorial, in spite of 
wave after wave of Hun and Visigoth and the devastation of 
forgotten wars. The fields shall heal themselves of their scars; 
but more patient than they, the people of the little village will 
do their will with the life force.” 

Such semi-mystical moods were rare. For the most part, he 
was the analytical observer, too analytical for the editors of the 
Metropolitan, who wanted colorful stories of heroic troops. It 
was surprising how much Reed understood, how much was clear 
to him, the impressionistic reporter, that was obscure to profes- 
sional students of history and diplomatic affairs. His Socialism 


did not deceive him into finding evidences of revolution where 
they did not exist, but it did inoculate him against the sleek 
phrases of the liberal apologists for war. 

It was his awareness of the true issues and his consequent in- 
ability to identify himself with either set of combatants that 
made it so difficult for him to write. He knew that the editors 
of the Metropolitan had reason for dissatisfaction with his work. 
They had not sent him to Europe to write general analyses; he 
was, except for the essential accuracy of his insight, unequipped 
for that kind of writing, and the other kind, impressionistic re- 
porting, he could do— or, at least, he had done— better than any- 
one else. But the truth was that he saw nothing but dull, mechan- 
ical routine. There was no drama, no glory in the whole business. 

Steffens tried to help him. “The things you see and hear in 
Paris and London,” he wrote, “would probably hold me spell- 
bound with interest if you should sit down and tell them to me. 
We are getting what you wanted to give: a grasp of the war as 
a whole. This is the best point of view of the war as a whole. 
New York gets the most news from the most places, and all the 
comments, for we have perspective, too, which you have not 
and cannot have. I think you should tell us what you see and 
hear, just as you did in Mexico. Your views on Mexico were not 
nearly so good as your descriptions and narrations. You’re not 
wise. Jack; not yet. But you certainly can see and you certainly 
can write.” 

It was good advice, but not good enough. Steffens did not 
understand the depression that filled Reed at the spectacle of 
these mechanical armies, machine-like men tending their death- 
dealing machines. Reed had to come to terms with this horror, 
and his attempt to understand it rationally was the bravest, 
soundest way. What matter if he said things that Steffens had 
always known.^ It was more important for him to understand 
the war than to maintain his reputation as a correspondent. Stef- 
fens was right in telling him to use his eyes as he had in Mexico. 
What he did not realize was that the expression of what Reed 
saw with Villa’s army had been guided by a deep emotion, 
whereas now, in Europe, with no emotion to unify his impres- 
sions, there could be no substitute for understanding. He was 


too honest to accept other men’s patterns, especially those pat- 
terns that condoned and even glorified the war by selecting 
colorful incidents for romantic treatment. He would not be 
false to his own eyes; he saw too much not to know that what 
was most important lay deep below the surface and could not 
be seen. 

Reed was depressed enough at moments, but even the facing 
of complex problems could not exhaust his energy or check his 
romantic nature. Mabel Dodge had come to Paris soon after his 
arrival there, and for a time they had got on very well. But sud- 
denly there was a major explosion. Reed began to visit a couple 
he had known in the Village, and he became convinced that the 
woman was badly treated by her husband. One day he called 
and found her seriously ill. Her husband, she said, had gone 
away for a few days, though he knew she was sick. Reed’s chiv- 
alrous spirit made him constitute himself her nurse. He took 
the most patient care of her, with the great gentleness of which 
he was capable, and, by the time she had recovered, was con- 
vinced that he was in love with her. They planned to elope, and, 
when she had her divorce, to be married. 

Mabel Dodge sailed for New York. She called together her 
friends and Reed’s and held a council of war. She said that she 
had freed Reed completely. She hoped that he would always be 
her friend, for she felt that she understood him, but she would 
in no way interfere with his plans. On the other hand, it was 
clear to her that the woman with whom he was at the moment 
infatuated was not suited to him. Even more apparent was the 
fact that he was not suited to her and that she would be less happy 
with him than with her husband. Mrs. Dodge called upon the 
friends to consider the matter and, if they agreed with her, to 
use their influence to prevent disaster. 

Most of them were perfectly aware how little influence they 
had. Reed went his own way, but Mrs. Dodge was proved at 
least partly right, for it was not long before the affair bored 
him. By the time he reached Berlin, he was inclined to regard 
the whole episode as comic. Robert Dunn was there, and for his 
benefit Reed described his emotions when the girl’s husband was 


threatening to shoot him at the same time that Mabel Dodge 
was trying to commit suicide. 

And then, in Berhn, he found a girl staying at his hotel whom 
he had known in New York, had, in fact, met at Mabel Dodge’s. 
She had had an unhappy love affair, and Reed was a good deal 
shaken by his narrow escape from matrimony and his rupture 
with Mrs. Dodge. The affair was romantic enough, but it was 
pleasant rather than intense, and there was little danger of 
tragedy or even ill will at the end. It made the weeks in Berlin 
considerably brighter. 

Berlin needed sweetening for Reed. Although the German 
authorities had promised him that he would be allowed to visit 
the trenches, it took a long time for arrangements to be made. 
Meanwhile there was, aside from private diversions, little to do 
except stand around the hotel bars and drink with the other cor- 
respondents. There were concerts, which Reed enjoyed, but at 
one of them an actor recited a poem of hate against the Allies, 
and all the pleasure in Haydn and Mozart vanished. Everywhere 
were evidences of the efficiency of the German war-macliine, 
and he was weary of war-machines. The blunt aggressiveness of 
the German leaders was only shghtly less irritating than the 
hypocrisy of British statesmen, and the brutality of some Ger- 
man officers to their men was intolerable. Many of the reporters, 
he discovered, were privately sympathetic to Germany, though 
they were already shaping their dispatches to match the pro- 
Ally sentiments of the editorial columns of their papers. For 
himself, he could discover no basis for preference. 

It was heartening, after all he had seen of the vacillation of 
Socialist leaders in France and Great Britain, to talk with TCarl 
Liebknecht. The SociaHst deputy, leader of the handful who 
had dared to oppose war appropriations, seemed diffident, al- 
most shy. He played with a paper cutter as he talked, his dark, 
round face paUid in the hght of a green-shaded desk lamp. His 
mouth, under the bristlmg mustache, was calm, and his brown 
eyes were gentle. Reed asked him if he stood by his attitude of 
opposition to the war. “What else,” said Liebknecht, “can a 
Socialist do?” 

At last came permission to go to Lille and then to the trenches. 


Senator Beveridge, Robert Dunn, and Ernest Poole were in the 
group. They rode through German France, where, under the 
surveillance of German soldiers, French peasants were working 
in the fields. Don’t imagine,” he wrote, “that -German soldiers 
are a cruel, arrogant race. They have done admirable things. I 
am sure that some of these little northern French towns were 
never so clean, so intelligently organized. Everywhere they have 
re-opened schools and churches; they have re-established local 
institutions and local 'charities; they have scoured whole towns, 
lighted every house with electricity, placed up-to-date hospitals, 
served by the finest doctors in the world, at the free disposal 
of the humblest citizen.” But the people were a conquered peo- 
ple, filled with bitterness and hatred, with their sons in the 
French army and all their hopes centered in a French victory. 

At Lille the entire party stayed in the best hotel— at the ex- 
pense, they assumed, of the German government. Actually, they 
afterwards learned, the bill was paid by the city. Soldiers, offi- 
cers, and guests of the army were lodged in private houses and 
hotels, whose owners were permitted to charge a stated amount. 
The account was paid by a signed order, and the landlord col- 
lected his money from the city treasury. Direct war contribu- 
tions amounted to two million francs a month. The Germans 
had confiscated food, leather, rubber, cloth, and copper. The 
population hved on bitter black bread, made half of bad flour 
and half of potatoes. Twelve hostages, including the mayor’s 
son, were kept under guard. 

And yet Reed found the German soldiers— and most of the 
officers, for that matter— friendly, decent people. The soldiers 
were jovial and childlike, with little animosity against the French. 
Reed could easily believe the story of the Christmas truce, when 
the men on both sides, in defiance of orders, ceased fi ring . But, 
unfortunately, it was just as easy to believe that when the truce 
was over, the firing was resumed. It was precisely as it had been 
in the French and British armies— no hatred for the enemy, no 
sense of anything to be gained by the war, no ability to give a 
reason for fighting— just cheerful efiiciency in the business of 

Reed wanted to see acmal fighting; perhaps it would help to 


explain the mystery; at least he could say that he had seen war 
at first-hand. The entire party was led to one of the quieter 
sectors. They could see both the French and German trenches 
and could hear the constant sound of firing. There was not a 
human being in sight, though within three hundred yards a 
thousand Germans were eating, drinking, sleeping, and shooting, 
and, two hundred yards beyond them a thousand Frenchmen 
were doing the same things. When they were back at the auto- 
mobiles, their guide asked them if they were satisfied. Dunn 
promptly said he was not, and Reed joined him. One of the 
officers telephoned the general in command of the Second Ba- 
varian Army Corps, and they were given permission to enter 
the trenches in a more active sector that night. 

They had lunch with the general at his headquarters at 
Comines. Thousands of soldiers, having spent their three days 
in the trenches, were resting in the great barracks, a converted 
factory, in the city. As the correspondents left, they met column 
after column of heavily laden motor and horse trucks and long 
lines of slouching, mud-soaked soldiers. They came to Houthem, 
where recruits were given their final training within range of the 
French cannons. The road on which they passed was sporadi- 
cally shelled, and by the time they came to the battery they 
were to inspect, the explosions seemed unpleasantly close. The 
captain of the battery was cordial and re-assuring. He exhibited 
his biggest gun, and gave the word to his men. There was a flat 
roar; flame and gray haze belched forth; and the whistling 
scream of the roaring shell rose and dwindled. In the dugout a 
soldier, with a telephone receiver strapped to his ears and an 
open novel in his lap, reported to the captain that French can- 
non were being moved into place to shell the battery. Outside, 
the captain pointed to a French plane hovering high above them 
in the attempt to find their position, and they saw two German 
monoplanes rise and drive the scout away. 

Some of the correspondents thought they had seen enough, 
and their guide’s account of the dangers of going into the 
trench convinced them that they had better return to Lille. Reed 
was inclined to agree with them, but Dunn insisted that at least 


they reconnoiter. After supper at field headquarters, the two of 
them left for the front. 

They trudged on in the rain, talking with Lieutenant Riegel 
in fragmentary French and German. The French batteries were 
silent, but the German guns roared steadily. Reed visualized the 
great switchboard singing and humming in the Idtchen of brigade 
headquarters and the quivering miles of telephone wire that led 
from where muddy men with night-glasses watched the French 
lines under the blinding glare of rockets. Smoothly the great 
machine functioned, calm questions and answers, deliberate 
judgments, the word passing from trench to gun, from gun to 
trench, from Houthem to Comines, to LiUe, to Brussels, perhaps 
to Berlin. 

They passed a field kitchen, and the two men tending it cried 
“Griiss Gott” like the simple Bavarian peasants they were. In the 
darkness they stumbled against men moving along in the rain, 
relieved artillery. On one stretch of the road rifle bullets spat in 
the mud, and just after tliey had passed there was a burst of 
machine-gun fire. They walked thirty feet apart. “We lose 
about twenty men a night here,” Lieutenant Riegel commented. 

In the stone-vaulted wine-cellar of a ruined chateau the major 
in command of the trench played the chateau’s grand piano, 
which had miraculously survived the German artillery attack on 
the handful of Enghsh who had held the place a month or two 
before. He had been on a concert tour in America, and talked 
with them eagerly about the country, as he gave them beer. 

The approach-trench, flooded when a shot hit the bank of 
the Ypres canal, was impassable, and they walked, again spread 
out, through an open beet-field. Bullets came close enough to 
splash them with mud, but they reached the approach-trench 
beyond the break and scrambled into it. Struggling on, stagger- 
ing, falling, thrusting their arms to the shoulder in the wet slime 
of the sides, they came at last to the trench that stretched the 
entire length of the German lines. 

The lieutenant gave them Munchener and then took them out- 
side. Men stood shoulder to shoulder, shielded by thin plates of 
steel, each pierced with the loophole through which the rifle 
lay. Sodden with the drenching rain, their bodies crushing into 


the oozy mud, they stood thigh deep in thick brown water, and 
spent eight hours out of every twenty-four in shooting. The 
officer ordered a man to send up rockets, and in their light Reed 
could see the opposing trench, a black gash pricked with rifle- 
flame. Only a little way off lay the huddled, blue-coated bodies 
of the French who had been slain in an attempted advance of the 
week before. They were slowly sinking into the mud. 

Suddenly the French guns began, far down the line. The firing 
swept along and began directly opposite them. Diabolical whis- 
thngs laced the sky, and shrapnel crackled overhead. The Ger- 
man howitzers went into action, and Reed could see the flames 
leap as their shells struck. The ground shook. Dunn and Reed 
staggered into the lieutenant’s dugout. “You’re safer in the 
trench,” he explained. “But it doesn’t last long,” he continued, 
and just then the noise chopped suddenly off, and the rifle-fire 
sounded hke crickets in a pasture. 

They played poker with the officers in the dugout, and lis- 
tened, over the telephone wire, as the major in the chateau wine- 
cellar played Chopin waltzes. As they came out of the dugout, 
before daybreak, the lieutenant called a soldier and took his 
rifle. “Would you like to have a shot?” he asked. Tense after 
their night in the trenches, they laughed feverishly, and both of 
them fired in the general direction of France. They left the 
trench with the men going off duty. The firing had dwindled 
away, and they felt almost safe. Many of the soldiers were bent 
over with rheumatism, and a few had to be carried on stretchers. 
They were silent with the silence of desperately weary men. 
Suddenly there was a scream, and, in the light of the lieutenant’s 
pocket-lamp, they saw a man seized, bound, and gagged. His 
eyes were wide and staring, and his shoulders twitched con- 
vulsively. He was quite mad. And then, as they were nearly 
back to the chateau, they heard a humming deep chorus of 
hushed voices. It was the thousand men from Comines, washed, 
dried, fed, and rested, marching in for their three days in the 

Neither Dunn nor Reed said much; they had, as Reed re- 
corded, a good deal to think about. Reed had seen at last the 
actual conduct of the war. The experience gave him the mate- 



rial for the one first-rate article that grew out of his five months 
in western Europe. He had entered sympathetically into the 
emotions of the fighting men in the trenches. He took no such 
pleasure in the experience as he had in sharing the lot of La 
Tropa, but at least he had seen something that could be honestly 
recorded without comment or interpretation. This was war, the 
full brutal, mechanical force of it. He had felt the horror of 
death and the horror of military life. The fighting not merely 
lacked glamor; it was starkly terrible. But Reed could have ac- 
cepted the horror if he had not sensed so fully the futility. He 
wanted to say to the soldiers of both sides, “This is not your 


Manhattan Revisited 

J OHN Reed sailed for New York in January, 1915, depressed 
and bewildered by what he had seen. Steffens, he was ready 
to believe, might be right in saying that people in the 
United States understood the war better than people in Europe. 
Two days after he landed, he knew that Steffens was wrong. 
The idea that in New York one could see all sides of the strug- 
gle was, Reed soon realized, ridiculous. New York was getting 
almost all of its news through London, and any one who had 
been in England could recognize the subtle distortions of the 
British propagandists. The completeness with which the people 
of the North Atlantic states accepted the Allied interpretation 
of the war stunned Reed. His own protests, especially with re- 
gard to the atrocity stories, were brushed aside as pro-German 
prejudice or irresponsible nonsense. The American people were 
reading the adroitly colored dispatches of such war-correspond- 
ents as Philip Gibbs and H. W. Nevinson and the lofty phrases 
of Wells, Kipling, Galsworthy, and Bennett. They saw through 
England’s eyes, and nothing Reed could say made any impres- 

As yet, only the most bellicose clamored for actual participa- 
tion, but Reed was conscious that influential sections of the 
population, especially in the Northeast, were making dangerous 
assumptions. He foresaw, moreover, that Allied orders for war 
supplies would increase, would offset the damage to American 
business that the blockade had wrought, and would create for 
American finance and industry a material stake in Alli ed victory. 
The drift was towards war, and he could see no adequate resist- 



ance. His Socialist friends understood the economic causes of 
the conflict, but many of them were chiefly interested in ex- 
plaining away the collapse of Socialism in the belligerent coun- 
tries. As for the pacifists, though he agreed with their desire to 
keep America neutral at all costs, he was a little doubtful about 
their methods. Their emphasis on the physical horrors of war- 
fare seemed to him dangerously close to hysteria, and he ob- 
jected to their making the opposition to war a moral issue. 

That there was a strong sentiment against war he did not 
doubt, but no one seemed to know how it could be effectively 
canalized. Before he had gone to France, he had heard Walter 
Lippmann discussing plans for the New Republic, and he had 
hoped that the new weekly might provide the right kind of 
leadership. He returned to find that it had been launched. The 
money was provided by Mrs. Willard Straight, and Lippmaim 
was associated in the editorship with Herbert Croly, Walter 
Weyl, Philip Littell, and Francis Hackett. Reed was familiar, of 
course, with Lippmaim’s Preface to Politics, which had appeared 
in 1913, and he knew Croly’s Promise of American Life at least 
by reputation. He did not fully understand how Lippmann’s 
Socialism could be reconciled with Croly’s desire “to unite the 
Hamiltonian principle of national political responsibility and 
efficiency with a frank democratic purpose.” Croly’s Federalism, 
Weyl’s Jeffersonianism, and Lippmann’s Socialism seemed a 
strange combination, and yet Reed could see how much the 
three men had in common. For one thing, they were all realists 
and rationalists; that is, they emphasized the necessity of accept- 
ing the status quo as their point of departure; and they had com- 
plete confidence in the power of the intellect— more specifically, 
their intellects— to solve the problems of the social order. Reed 
had an uncomfortable feeUng that realism such as theirs was 
closely akin to opportunism, and he had a strong sense of the 
fallibility of human reason, but he was a good deal awed by 
the erudition, poise, and aggressiveness of the New Republic’s 

He was interested in the New Republic not merely as a phe- 
nomenon of American life but as a medium for the expression Ox 
ideas that many of his friends had long urged upon him. Not 


only was Lippmann one of the principal editors; Bob Hallowell 
was treasurer, and Lee Simonson and Alfred Kuttner were fre- 
quent contributors. He studied with particular care the editorials 
on the war, and it seemed to him that they were singularly suc- 
cessful in adding to what he felt to be the universal confusion. 
They were so superior to ordinary considerations of human suf- 
fering and material interests that he could find only a tenuous 
relation between their assumptions and reality. It seemed reason- 
able enough to say, “The newer ideal of peace, whether in 
domestic or foreign policy, has to be actively and intentionally 
promoted,” or, “A nation does not commit the great sin when it 
fights. It commits the great sin when it fights for a bad cause or 
when it is afraid to fight for a good cause,” or “Nations do not 
avoid war by preparing for war, but neither do they avoid war 
by being unprepared for war.” And yet Reed had the sense that 
ail of this elaborate logic could so easily provide a justification 
for America’s entry into the war. The slogan, “This is not our 
war,” might be less subtle, even in a sense less true, but it was 
a good deal less dangerous. 

He was equally puzzled by the New Republic's attitude to- 
wards the labor problem. There was a whole series of editorials 
that maintained with great erudition what Reed knew to be 
true, namely, that the Socialist Party of America had ceased to 
be a revolutionary party. When this was said in the Masses, he 
could heartily applaud, but the way in which the New Republic 
said it left him bewildered and irritated. There was such an air 
of condescension: “Its errors are less of the heart than of the 
head, and its enthusiasm, its self-sacrifice, and its occasional 
spurts of courage more than compensate for its obstinacy in mis- 
representation and for a certain mendacity born of fanaticism. 
The Socialist Party offers an opportunity to hundreds of little 
groups all over the country to educate themselves in public 
meeting if not in public affairs.” Why Croly and Lippmann 
should feel so superior to the Socialists, weak as the party was, 
Reed could not see. When he looked for some positive state- 
ment of the New Republic’s remedy for the inefficiency, injus- 
tice, and cruelty of American industrialism, he could find noth- 
ing but vague talk about industrial democracy. There is always 


violence in a strike, the editors would observe; it is never pos- 
sible to decide who is at fault; the only solution is to eliminate 
the causes of strife by setting up machinery for the peaceful 
solution of difficulties. John Reed, who was not a profound stu- 
dent of economics but who had, after all, been in jail in Pater- 
son and seen the ruins of the Ludlow tent colony, would wonder 
precisely what sort of machinery would serve the purpose. “We 
do not expect,” the editors reasonably assured hun, “to jump 
straight from the present absolutism into a cooperative democ- 
racy. Industry will have to pass through the intermediate steps, 
through limited monarchy, through representative government, 
before self-government is possible.” 

It did not lessen Reed’s bewilderment and irritation to find, 
in one of the first issues of the New Republic, an article by 
Walter Lippmann called “Legendary John Reed.” Reed had 
satirized Lippmann in A Day in Bohemia, and the article was 
an appropriate enough response, defining the difference between 
them from Lippmann’s point of view as the poem had defined it 
from Reed’s. Lippmann said a number of complimentary things, 
and there was no doubt that the intention of the piece was 
friendly. But there was an undertone of condescension that Reed 
resented. Lippmann, the precocious author of Preface to Politics 
and Drift and Mastery, made a good deal of the playboy in 
Reed; “I can’t think of a form of disaster which John Reed 
hasn’t tried and enjoyed. He has half-spilled himself into com- 
mercialism, had his head turned by flattery, tried to act like a 
cynical war-correspondent, posed as a figure out of Ibsen.” It 
was true, but Reed could not be blamed for feeling it was not 
the whole truth. And he was a little annoyed by the way Lipp- 
mann, evidently thinking of himself as the true revolutionary, 
poked fun at Reed as a pseudo-revolutionary: “For a few weeks 
Reed tried to take the Masses view of fife. He assumed that all 
capitalists were fat, bald, and unctuous, that Victor Berger and 
the Socialist Party and Samuel Gompers and the trade xmions 
are a fraud on labor. He made an effort to believe that the 
working class is not composed of miners, plumbers, and working 
men generally, but is a fine, statuesque giant who stands on a 
high lull facing the sun. He wrote stories about the night court 


and plays about ladies in kimonos. He talked with intelligent 
tolerance about dynamite, and thought he saw an intimate con- 
nection between the cubists and the I.W.W. He even read a 
few pages of Bergson.” Reed did not deny that Lippmann knew 
ten times as much about Marx as he did, but he could not be 
blamed for wondering why a couple of erudite books and a few 
weeks as secretary to Socialist Mayor Lunn of Schenectady en- 
titled Walter Lippmann to set himself up as a model revolu- 
tionary. He had called Lippmann “our all-unchallenged chief,” 
and he meant it, but the article sounded as if Lippmann thought 
of himself as a stern father and Reed as a spoiled child: “At times 
when he seemed to be rushing himself and others into trouble, 
when his ideas were especially befuddled, I have tried to argue 
with him. But all laborious elucidation he greets with pained 
boredom.” Lippmann, as well as Reed, was considerably under 

Reed was too busy to dwell long on the Lippmann incident. His 
experiences on the western front had given him material for two 
short stories, one of which he sent to the Metropolitan, the other 
to the Masses. The Metropolitan story, “The Barber of Lille,” 
had been suggested by his observations of the oppressed and 
deeply bitter citizenry of German France. Out of a casual con- 
versation with a barber, he fashioned a melodramatic tale of the 
murder of a German officer. The wife, half in love with the 
German, hysterically spurs her husband on to the deed, telling 
him the murder will be the signal for the people of T. ill ft to rise. 
It would be pure melodrama if the barber’s old father were not 
given the last words: “Do you think the city will rise? Don’t 
you know that the grocer, and the tobacconist, and the cafetier, 
and the baker are Hving off the Germans? Don’t you know that 
the town is sold? Can’t you understand that the Germans buy 
and pay money?” 

As so often, the Masses got the better work. “Daughter of 
the Revolution” grew out of one of the lonely nights in Paris, a 
night spent in a cafe with two or three girls of the streets. It 
was one of these girls-he called her Marcelle-who was the 
daughter of the revolution. Her grandfather had been shot in the 


Commune; her father and brother had led strikes and been 
beaten by the police. She was half-proud, half-ashamed of her 
revolutionary heritage. She, too, had wanted liberty, but liberty 
to enjoy at once the good things life offered. So she became a 
prostitute. “It was not vice that had twisted her,” Reed com- 
mented, “but the intolerable degradation of the human spirit by 
the masters of the earth, the terrible punishment of those who 
thirst for liberty.” In Reed’s eyes, she, too, though she did not 
know it and either thought of herself as a sinner and a renegade 
or thought of her father and brother as narrow fools, was a 

He was interested not only in short stories but also in plays. 
The Washington Square Players were presenting “Moondown” 
on their second bill, together with Andreyev’s ‘Love of One’s 
Neighbor,” PhiUip Moeller’s “Two Blind Beggars and One Less 
Blind,” and Brock Pemberton’s “My Lady’s Honor.” The suc- 
cess of the little play encouraged him to take out and revise 
Enter Dibble. He had probably begun this three-act play as 
early as 1913, but he had never been satisfied with it, and had 
from time to time tried to revise it. When he finished this fur- 
ther revision in February, 1915, H. J. Whigham of the Metro- 
politan sent the play to Granville Barker. Barker said it was 
extremely alive but derivative and technically weak. Later Reed 
tried other producers, but the play was never staged. 

Barker was right in calling Enter Dibble derivative: it derived 
straight from Bernard Shaw. Reed had tried to write an intellec- 
tual farce, the story of an upper-class revolutionary and super- 
man who disrupts a bourgeois family. Dibble takes a job as a 
ditch-digger in Fairfield, Ohio. He falls in love with Phoebe 
Willett, whose family is alternately shocked at his being a day- 
laborer and delighted at his being a Philadelphia Dibble. He tells 
her father, “I am the super-ditch-digger. I shall be the greatest 
ditch-digger the world has ever seen. I am the artist of ditch- 
diggers— because I understand the philosophy of my job. I shall 
make ditch-digging a great and honorable calling. I teU you, all 
the work men do is honorable, if they wUl only believe in it.” 
When Mr. Willett informs Dibble that he caimot support 
Phoebe on a day-laborer’s wages. Dibble says that that is quite 


true, that no ditch-digger can support a wife on the wages Mr. 
Willett pays. He has therefore organized a union and is about 
to demand a twenty percent raise and an eight-hour day. To 
Phoebe he expounds his dream of a new world: “Men and 
women together, equal, wise, and beautiful; neither owning each 
other nor being owned— not bound, not dominating, each doing 
his own work in the world. Struggling, fighting, creating beauty, 
filling the world with laughter.” “I saw I must leave my friends 
and my home,” he tells her, “and go out and find my job— and 
master it, and love it, and help others to find their work. Noth- 
ing else will ever make them happy.” She is moved by his elo- 
quence and tells him that they were made for each other, but 
when he says that science has exploded such sentimental notions, 
she is offended and breaks the engagement. He leaves, saying 
that he will not come back but that she can find him in his ditch 
if she wants him. Her family crowds in to congratulate her on 
getting rid of him, and she delivers the curtain-speech: “Don’t 
you see? I know what fife is now. Do you think I can ever be 
satisfied with anything less—?” 

The play was, as Barker said, alive, in spite of its debt to 
Shaw and its immaturity and weak construction. The revolu- 
tionary comedy of ideas, as Steffens could have told him, was 
not the best possible form for John Reed to attempt, but the 
artificiality of the medium and its uncongeniality could not com- 
pletely conceal the vitality of the man. Reed’s whole indictment 
of the bourgeoisie centered in their stifling of life. He wanted 
freedom and beauty— but not merely for himself. His own gen- 
erous passions escaped into the play. The dialogue was mostly 
feeble in its groping after Shavian wit, but it had moments of 
fire. Reed was always saying the same thing, even in the mawk- 
ishness of “Moondown”: life can be infinitely rich, infinitely 
precious, and the enemies of life will have to be destroyed. 

“Reed has no detachment,” Lippmann had written, “and is 
proud of it, I think. By temperament he is not a professional 
writer or reporter. He is a person who enjoys himself. Revolu- 
tion, literature, poetry, they are only things which hold him at 
times, incidents merely of his living.” It was true. What Lipp- 
mann did not understand was how resolutely Reed held on to 


his belief in the possibilities of life, the significance of living, and 
how surely this behef was growing into a social philosophy. 
Living itself was all-important, and nothing could be tolerated, 
within oneself or in society, that stood in the way. The appar- 
ently reckless things Reed did were not the product of mean- 
ingless whims; they were the expression of deep impulses. If he 
risked his life with La Tropa or in the German trenches, it was 
because he knew the limitations of the terms on which life was 
worth living; he had to test his own courage before he would 
dare to oppose war. Even the silly pranks he engaged in were 
not wholly pointless; if he had happened to be a French poet, 
instead of an American, he would have thought of them as sig- 
nificant gestures. They were protests against stupidity, narrow- 
ness, sterility; they were manifestations, deeds proclaiming the 
glory of freedom. 

This is not to say, of course, that Reed scorned bread and but- 
ter, and, at the moment, that meant working for the Metropoli- 
tan. The magazine was still engaged in its strategic retreat. It 
boasted of the fact that, though it had endorsed Socialism, it 
was “almost the only periodical in America that during the last 
two years of business depression, and in spite of the war, has 
constantly increased its advertising revenue.” This, H. J. Whig- 
ham editorially stated, was a tribute to “the progressive character 
of the national advertiser” and “an evidence of the trend of the 
times.” It was also, he added, an indication of the broadening of 
Socialism. “Two and a half years ago the Socialist Party was 
still dominated in part by men of the Haywood type. The class 
war was the essence of the political faith and direct action was 
freely advocated against political methods. . . . Today the So- 
cialist Party has tacitly removed the class war as a test of faith. 
. . . The Socialist Party of America has finally and definitely cut 
loose from the advocates of brute force, and has thereby taken 
its place as a great civilizing and constructive body. . . . Social- 
ism is not only a great and growing force against war between 
nations, but, what is even more important, it is becoming the 
main bulwark against war between class and class.” It was true 
that Hillquit was still contributing a monthly article to the 


Metropolitan, but his articles were chiefly devoted to exonerat- 
ing the Socialist Parties of Europe for their capitulation to mili- 
tarism and to demonstrating that the war, because the Socialists 
had predicted it, was really a triumph for Sociahsm. Lippmann 
was also writing each month, offering constructive plans for a 
controlled imperiahsm and what he called democracy in indus- 
try. But even the radicahsm of such practical men as Hillquit 
and Lippmann seemed to Mr. Whigham to need a counter- 
balance, and with the issue of February, 1915, Theodore Roose- 
velt became a regular contributor. 

Roosevelt thundered away against President Wilson. He hsted 
the Americans killed in Mexico, and attacked those who op- 
posed intervention; “The rape of women, the murder of men, 
and the cruel treatment of Httle children leave their tepid souls 
unstirred. Insult to the American flag, nameless infamies on 
American women, cause them not one single pulse of emotion.” 
“To defend Villa,” he cried, “as representing freedom and jus- 
tice and democracy in the sense that the words are used in 
speaking of civilized nations is hterally like defending an old- 
time Apache chief on the same grounds. The sincerity of such a 
defense can escape question only if the defender is admitted to 
be entirely ignorant of all concerning which he speaks.” 

He clamored for preparedness, calling for a regular army of 
at least two hundred thousand men, so that the United States 
could take over at a moment’s notice the duty of policing Mex- 
ico. He called for universal military training: “Such a training 
would be of immense benefit to all our young men in civil fife. 
It would much increase their efficiency in industry. It would not 
in the least tend to ‘mihtarism,’ but it would tend to make us effi- 
cient to defend ourselves in time of need.” He raged against 
“those feeble but noisy folk, the peace-at-any-price people, the 
professional pacifists,” and called them mollycoddles. 

Roosevelt, his father’s idol, became, for John Reed, the epit- 
ome of aU that he hated in the New York he had discovered 
on his return from the western front. Since they frequently met 
in the Metropolitan office, it was inevitable that they should 
quarrel. Reed took particular satisfaction in praising Villa in 
Roosevelt’s presence. “Villa is a murderer and a bigamist,” 



Roosevelt said. Reed assumed his most superior manner. “Well, 
I believe in bigamy,” he said. Roosevelt thrust out his hand: 
“I am glad, John Reed, to find that you believe in something. It 
is very necessary for a young man to believe in something.” 

But sometimes their meetings did not end good-humoredly. On 
one occasion Roosevelt was telling a group how he had ordered 
a soldier to be shot in the Spanish-American War. Reed broke 
in: “Why, Colonel, I always knew you were a murderer.” And 
they went at it, each shouting at the other, their voices growing 
shriller and shriller, until WTiigham and Hovey managed to 
separate them. 

Roosevelt’s appointment to the staff of the Metropolitan was 
an even clearer indication than Whigham’s editorials of what 
was happening, but Reed realized that no other magazine that 
offered a comparable salary would be more congenial or give 
him more freedom. His one assignment during his two months in 
New York was an article on BiUy Sunday, an assignment that 
he accepted with relish. He carefully prepared the way by hav- 
ing Sam McCoy, who was working on a Philadelphia news- 
paper, gather data for him, and then he and George Bellows, 
who was to illustrate the article, set off for Sunday’s head- 

The evangelist would not see them until the next day, but 
Reed knew how to use the time, and began a canvass of the 
members of the committee that had invited Sunday to Philadel- 
phia. He asked one of the ministers if Sunday had converted any 
business men. The minister cited a particular manufacturer. 
“When the manufacturer became a Christian, did he raise 
wages?” Reed asked. “You don’t understand,” he was told; 
“raising wages is a question of economics, not of religion.” 

Reed found that the twelve industrialists, twelve bankers, and 
four corporation lawyers on the citizens’ conunittee entirely 
agreed. He went to see Alba B. Johnson, president of the Bald- 
win Locomotive Works, where there were low wages, mai^ 
accidents, an open shop, and a record of savage strike-breaking. 
“I had long decided,” Mr. Johnson told him, “that what the 
country needed was a moral awakening. People’s minds are 
obsessed by material things. BiUy Sunday makes people look to 


the salvation of their own souls, and when a man is looking after 
his own soul’s good, he forgets his selfish desire to become rich. 
Instead of agitating for a raise in wages, he turns and helps some 
poorer brother who’s down and out.” 

When they went again to the Sundays’ headquarters, Ma Sun- 
day refused to let them see her husband. She was a little puzzled 
by their questions about the social value of Sunday’s preaching, 
and quoted, “The poor ye have always with you.” They did 
manage to talk with Sunday for a few minutes, but his wife 
soon drove them away. Reed found him pleasant and apparendy 
sincere. At the tabernacle he was impressed by the dramatic 
technique; it was a good show, and he liked good shows. He 
wrote a restrained, good-tempered article that demonstrated be- 
yond any question Sunday’s usefulness to capitalism. “We went 
away unconverted,” he ended, “but Philadelphia was saved.” 

The Metropolitan wanted Reed to go back to France, but he 
had been barred from that country. On February 27, Robert 
Dunn had published in the New York Post an account of their 
night in the German trenches. As they emerged from the dug- 
out, Lieutenant Riegel, he said, took a Mauser from one of the 
soldiers. “The next moment it was in Reed’s hands, and with the 
muzzle pointing through the eyehole atop the bank, he was get- 
ting a bead on the low, jagged crest of mud across the short and 
hellish space. Be it on our heads, we did it, both fired twice, turn 

and turn about, wicked, full-fledged franc-tireurs That Reed 

should have done so, with his scorn of force and soldiering, is 
sufficient, if sophistical, excuse for me.” 

There had been tremendous protest— far greater, certainly, 
than would have arisen if the guns had been pointed in the other 
direction. President Hibben of Princeton wrote: “I wish to ex- 
press my feeling of indignation and of protest against this cold- 
blooded and inhuman proceeding.” Some of the papers pub- 
lished editorials. Richard Harding Davis denounced Reed and 
had to be reminded of certain exploits of his own. More impor- 
tant, the French government formally banned both Reed and 
Dunn from France. ^ 

Boardman Robinson, an artist who had been for some years 
on the staff of the Tribune and had occasionally contributed to 



the Masses, was supposed to accompany Reed to France, and it 
was suggested that they go together to see Ambassador Jusserand 
in Washington. Jusserand was friendly, and hinted that a letter 
from Roosevelt might move the French government. They hur- 
ried back to New York, and explained what had happened. 
Roosevelt dictated his letter in their presence. It ended, “If I 
were Marshal Joffre and Reed fell into my hands, I should have 
him court-martialed and shot.” 

Since there was no chance of going to the western front, it 
was decided that they should go to the Balkans and Russia. 
They were inoculated for typhoid and cholera, and passage was 
booked for March 20. In the meantime, Reed had a series of 
lecture engagements. On March 5, he spoke at Tremont Tem- 
ple in Boston. The audience was pro-Ally and was frankly in- 
credulous when he denied the atrocity stories and indignant 
when he maintained that England was as guilty as Germany. 
The next night he attended a Lampoon dinner in Cambridge, 
and found most of the undergraduates as settled in their preju- 
dices as his Boston listeners had been. What he had feared was 
happening. Steffens might talk of the opportunities in America, 
for an impartial analysis of the issues of war, but Reed could 
see only that six months of British propaganda had had its effect. 

There was a good deal to make him unhappy. Boyd, who had 
returned to this country and had been jailed in Paterson, was 
completely pessimistic. The surrender of European Socialists 
had convinced him that Socialism was impossible. He had re- 
nounced his affliation with the I.W.W., and had sought a par- 
don on the ground that he no longer held the views for the 
expression of which he had been arrested. Reed was one of 
many who signed a petition for Boyd’s release, and no one could 
have rejoiced more when he was freed. He had no thought of 
blaming Boyd, for he was deeply shaken himself. 

But he could not drop the fight to keep America out of the 
war. He wrote for the Masses an article called “The Worst 
Thing in Europe.” It was not a very carefuUy considered article, 
but there was tremendous passion in it. Reed began by describ- 
ing the docility of the men in the French and Germany army, 
and attributed it to the fact that they had been disciplined by 


military training. The equal docility of the English soldier he 
blamed on the British caste system; men who know their place 
become obedient soldiers. “I hate soldiers,” he wrote. “I hate to 
see a man with a bayonet fixed on his rifle, who can order me 
off the street. I hate to belong to an organization that is proud of 
obeying a caste of superior beings, that is proud of killing free 
ideas, so that it may more efficiently kill human beings in cold 
blood. They will tell you that a conscript army is democratic, 
because everybody has to serve; but they won’t tell you that 
military service plants in your body the germ of blind obedience, 
of blind irresponsibility, that it produces one class of com- 
manders in your state and your industries, and accustoms you to 
do what they tell you even in time of peace.” “They are talking 
now,” he concluded, “about building up an immense standing 
army. ... I, for one, refuse to join.” 


Eastern Front 

O NCE more John Reed sailed for Italy, once more expect- 
ing to see that country enter the war, but this time on 
the side of the Allies. Mabel Dodge came to see him 
off, and from the boat he wrote her the letter that ended two 
years of intermittent intimacy. A friend, at his request, de- 
stroyed ail the letters Mrs. Dodge had written him. They saw 
little of each other thereafter, but she remained convinced that 
she was the only person who understood John Reed. 

From Italy he wrote his mother. have come to hate Eu- 
rope,’^ he said. “After this trip I want to stay in America about a 
year, and not return to Europe until I take you and Harry over 
here, after the war.’’ But he was looking forward to the new 
adventure: “Of course it will be different, and better, in the 
East. The Caucasus is something like Mexico, they say, and I’m 
sure m like the people. It will be great to get on a horse and ride 
over mountain passes where Genghis Khan invaded Europe.” 
And it was fun to be a noted war-correspondent: “I find that I 
am a celebrated figure already, as all the people on the boat have 
read my ‘works.’ Am treated with amusing marked deference 
by all.” 

Italy was disappointingly calm, but there were rumors of the 
imminent capture of Constantinople, and Reed and Robinson 
went on to Salonika. Their ship left from Brindisi and nosed up 
the Greek coast beyond Piraeus. In Salonika, where men talked 
twenty languages, they spoke with British agents, Armenian 
merchants, and Greek boot-blacks from America. Sitting at a 
table in the Place de la Liberte, they watched Greek, French, 



English, Russian, and Serbian officers, Greek priests, Musselman 
hadjis, Jewish rabbis, porters, fishermen, and beggars. In the 
Street of the Silversmiths, bearded old men squatted on high 
benches and pounded lumps of raw silver. The markets were 
what Reed had dreamed of when he tramped New York’s East 
Side: in the little booths, gold, blue, and silver fish lay on green 
leaves, among baskets of eggs and piles of vegetables, and the 
voices of the bargainers rose above the cackhng of hens and the 
squealing of pigs. 

All day long refugees poured into the city. Everywhere Reed 
and Robinson met the pitiful processions of men, women, and 
children, with bloody feet, limping beside broken-down wagons. 
The fighting in Turkey and the rumors of war in Bulgaria, Rou- 
mania, and Greece filled the city with all the different peoples 
of the Near East. One night Reed and Robinson found their 
way into a little cafe, where they were welcomed by seven 
refugees, Greeks, French, Italians, all of them carpenters, and 
all engaged in . celebrating the strange co-incidence that had 
brought seven carpenters together in a Salonika inn. The two 
Americans celebrated with them, singing “John Brown’s Body” 
to match the songs of Turkey and Arabia, Italy and Greece. 

But the news from Constantinople promised no excitement, 
and they turned towards Serbia, “the country of the typhus- 
abdominal typhus, recurrent fever, and the mysterious and vio- 
lent spotted fever, which kills fifty percent of its victims.” The 
epidemic was ending: “Now there were only a hundred thou- 
sand sick in all Serbia, and only a thousand deaths a day.” But 
an American from the Standard Oil office, who came to see them 
off, asked solicitously, “Do you want the remains shipped home, 
or shall we have you buried up there?” 

They crawled slowly up between barren hills along the yel- 
low torrent of the Vardar, while a lieutenant in the British 
Medical Mission described the plague as it had been at its 
height. The gorge of the Vardar broadened out into a wide val- 
ley rimmed with stony hills, beyond which lay high moun- 
tains. In the valley, crossed by irrigation ditches, every foot was 
under cultivation, and on the bare slopes of the hills bearded 
peasants watched sheep and goats. They came to a typhus ceme- 


tery beside the railroad, with thousands and thousands of crosses, 
and at last they arrived at Nish, war-capital of Serbia. 

Nish was a city of mud, appalling stench, sickness, and death. 
Everywhere there were soldiers, in filthy tatters, their feet 
bound with rags, some staggering on crutches, many still blue 
and shaking from the typhus. Austrian prisoners worked as 
servants or manual laborers or loitered desolately about the 
streets. In the typhus hospital, so crowded that cots touched each 
other, men writhed under dirty blankets, or lay apathetically 
awaiting death. Reed and Robinson passed through fetid ward 
after fetid ward, until their stomachs could stand no more. 

As they left Nish to go to the front, they heard again and 
again the story of the Serbian victory of December; how the 
Austrians had twice invaded the country and twice been hurled 
back, and how, as they came the third time, with twice as many 
men as the Serbs, they had steadily advanced beyond Belgrade, 
and then, suddenly, had been repulsed and slaughtered, until the 
Serbian general could proudly announce, “There remain no 
Austrian soldiers .on Serbian soil except prisoners.” Reed ad- 
mired the courage of the Serbian people and their savage inde- 
pendence, and he could almost make himself believe they were 
as romantic as the followers of Villa, but, after all that he had 
seen, their nationalism, so arrogant in its claims, so pervasive in 
its influence, seemed to him both objectionable and absurd. 

Belgrade, which the Serbs had tried to make into a modem 
European city, showed the effect of the constant bombardment. 
The university was in ruins; a shell had exploded within the 
walls of the military college; the interior of the royal palace had 
been gutted; the two top-floors of a five-story ofiice-building 
had been blown off; everywhere there were private houses 
without a single pane of glass. The city was still within the 
range of the Austrian guns, and there had been a bombardment 
within the past few days. From the hills behind the town, French 
English, Russian, and Serbian batteries Aired sporadically over 
the heads of the inhabitants. 

They went up the Save by boat, under fire from an Austrian 
cannon, and then pushed on towards the front by wagon. In 
every village they heard stories of Austrian atrocities, and saw 


reports, affidavits, photographs. At Lechnitza a hundred wo- 
men and children were chained together and their heads struck 
off. At Prnjavor Reed saw the ruins of a house; into that house 
the inhabitants of the village had been crowded, those for whom 
there was no room being tied on the outside, and the building 
had been burned. Five undefended towns were razed to the 
ground, and forty-two villages were sacked and most of their 
inhabitants massacred. 

On the top of Goutchevo mountain Reed saw what he re- 
garded as the most ghastly spectacle of the war. There was an 
open space, where, scarcely twenty yards apart, were the Aus- 
trian and Serbian trenches. Along the trenches were occasional 
deep pits, the results of successful undermining and dynamiting. 
Between the trenches were little mounds, from which protruded 
pieces of uniform, skulls with draggled hair, white bones with 
rotting hands at the end, bloody bones sticking from boots. 
For six miles along the top of Goutchevo the dead were piled. 
Reed and Robinson walked on the dead, and sometimes their 
feet sank through into pits of rotting flesh and crunching bones, 
and sometimes little holes opened and showed swarms of gray 

At Obrenovatz they tried to forget the valley of the dead 
in the jovial company of the colonel and his staff. Over the 
cognac, Reed expressed a desire to talk with a Serbian Socialist, 
and they took him to see the captain of one of the batteries. 
This man, who had been a lawyer in private life, and a leader 
of the Sociahst Party, had difficulty in recalling what, as a Social- 
ist, he had believed. “You have no idea,” he said, “how strange 
it is to be talking like this again!” Finally he said, “I have for- 
gotten my arguments, and I have lost my faith. For four years 
now I have been fighting in the Serbian army. At first I hated 
it, wanted to stop, was oppressed by the unreasonableness of it 
all. Now it is my job, my life. I spend all day thinking of those 
guns; I lie awake at night worrying about the battery. These 
things and my food, my bed, the weather— that is life to me. 
When I go home on leave to visit my wife and children, their 
existence seems so tame, so removed from realities. I get bored 
very soon, and am relieved when the tune comes to return 


to my friends here, my work— my guns. That is the horrible 
thing.” Reed could agree; it was more horrible tha n even Gout- 
chevo mountain. 

On their return to Belgrade, Reed was suddenly attacked by 
an acute pain in his back. It became so intense that it seemed 
as if he could not continue to ride his horse. When at last, after 
much suflFering, he reached the city, he went to the outstanding 
doctor, who dismissed his trouble as a venereal disease. A Brit- 
ish army surgeon, informing Reed that the doctor was likely 
to make that diagnosis of any ailment, hazarded the guess that 
the left kidney was infected. He advised Reed to wait until he 
returned to America, and then have an operation. 

After a fortnight the attacks became less frequent and less 
severe, though they bothered him sporadically throughout the 
remainder of his stay on the eastern front. Resting in Belgrade, 
Reed and Robinson had a chance to become better acquainted 
with both the Serbs and their allies. Serbian ofScers told them 
frankly that the government had known of the plan for the 
assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand at Sarejevo, and there 
were many references to Russian complicity. A British colonel 
explained that England had maneuvered to make Germany in- 
vade Belgium and would have sent its own army through Bel- 
gium if the maneuver had failed. In the face of the growing 
evidence of international greed and intrigue, Reed’s phrase, 
“this traders’ war,” seemed the expression of innocent blindness; 
and yet he knew that, m America, the myth of Allied purity and 
German depravity daily gained new adherents. 

Of course he could still be gay, and there were festive din- 
ners as well as serious discussions. As he felt stronger, he spent 
much of his time in wandering about the battered city, seek- 
ing out secluded caf^s and picturesque resorts. On one expedi- 
tion he met a girl who interested him, not a woman of the 
streets, but an educated European. They spent the night in a 
deserted house with the sound of cannonading in their ears. Love 
among the ruins, Reed thought; romance. 

By the end of May it seemed clear that Serbia was going to 
provide as little action as they had seen in Italy or Salonika, 


and they began to think of Russia. The Russian army had re- 
treated more than two hundred miles; they would go and re- 
port the retreat. The Russian ambassador at Bucharest told them 
they would have to go to Petrograd for passes, but they had 
learned from returning correspondents that no passes were be- 
ing issued. The American legation gave Reed a list of American 
citizens in Bucovina and Galicia, and, since the list did not seem 
quite long enough, Reed added, for his own amusement, the 
names of Sonya Levien of the Metropolitan staff, Fannie Hurst, 
and Walter Lippmann. The claim that they were investigating 
the situation of these Americans would, they hoped, satisfy any 
suspicious officials. They went to Dorohoi, the northern ter- 
minus of the Roumanian railway, and the chief of police took 
them across the border to Novo Sielitza. They had got into 
Russia by the back door. 

Captain Madji, commandant of Novo Sielitza, welcomed them 
with Gargantuan hospitality, and introduced them to his extraor- 
dinary household. About ten o’clock at night Captain Madji’s 
wife began to get dinner. To sharpen the appetite, there were 
plates of sardines, smoked and raw herrings, tunny, caviar, sau- 
sage, shirred eggs, and pickles, served with seven different kinds 
of liquor. Afterwards came great platters of com-meal polenta, 
and then chunks of pork and potatoes. It was midnight when the 
seven hquors were served again, and they settled down to drink 
tea. Half a dozen officers told stories of the retreat, and Madji 
protested when, at one o’clock, Reed and Robinson spoke of 
going to their quarters. 

They stayed in a Jewish home. There were Jews everywhere 
in Novo Sielitza, bowed, thin men in rusty derbies and greasy 
long coats, with desperate eyes, cringing from police, soldiers, 
and priests. Reed remembered the proclamation the Tsar had 
issued soon after the beginning of the war, informing the Jews 
that all discrimination against them was to cease, that the high- 
est rank of the army, the government, and the nobility would 
be open to them. He asked a lieutenant in the Cossack regiment 
if the decree had been enforced. The lieutenant laughed and 
said, “Of course not. All Jews are traitors.” 

From Novo Sielitza they went to Zalezschick, where certain 



of the persons were supposed to live whose names had been 
given them by the Bucharest legation. Captain Madji secured a 
horse, wagon, and driver for them, and persuaded General Bai- 
kov to give them a pass. All day long they drove beside the 
river Pruta, behind the Russian batteries. Zalezschick, they 
learned, had been captured by the Russians, taken from them 
by the Hungarians, and then recaptured. Each time the Jews 
had been persecuted and many of them massacred. The Amer- 
icans on Reed’s list who actually had lived in Zalezschick had 
apparently been among the victims of either the bombardments 
or the pogroms. Both the debris in the streets and the expres- 
sion of terror and despair on the faces of most of the people 
bore witness to the horrors the city had seen. 

The colonel in charge of Zalezschick received Reed and 
Robinson pleasantly, and they spent the evening discussing poli- 
tics, in fragmentary German, with him and his staff. He would 
not permit them to go to the front, but he arranged for them to 
see the general at Tarnapol. They slept that night on the train, 
and woke stiff and cramped from the benches of the third-class 
car. An officer who knew French began to talk with them, tell- 
ing them that all Russia was supporting the war. The peasants, 
for example, were in favor of it because they realized they could 
get rid of poverty and oppression if they beat the Germans. “If 
the peasants are going to beat anyone,” Robinson said to Reed, 
“why don’t they begin at home?” 

At Tarnapol they discovered that their presence in Russia 
was so astounding that the staff officer who interviewed them 
could scarcely convince himself that they were really there. 
General Lichinsky was friendly, but insisted that they go to 
Lemberg to see the governor-general of Galicia. They were 
arrested four times in the course of the day, but each time the 
staff released them. General Lichinsky had them cared for while 
they were in the city, and sent them fare-free to Lemberg. 

At Lemberg Prince Troubetskoi, promising to do all he could 
for them, introduced them to the governor-general’s first ad- 
jutant, who was very encouraging. They asked Troubetskoi if 
they could visit Przsemysl. “I’m so sorry,” he said regretfully, 
“but the Austrians entered Przsemysl this morning.” Finally 


they learned that the governor-general would do nothing for 
them; they could either go to Petrograd or try to get the per- 
mission of General Ivanov at Cholm to visit the front. Loath 
to leave the neighborhood without a glimpse of the fighting, 
they chose to go to Cholm. 

It took them two days to get there, traveling third-class or 
on hospital trains, sleeping on wooden benches, eating badly or 
not at all, and waiting for hours in obscure railway stations. 
One of the stops was at Rovno, and it was there that Reed 
learned what the Pale was like. They were arrested several times, 
but always released. On the last stretch they found a Russian 
officer who spoke English and who told them tales of Russian 
inefficiency. The regiment in which he served had arrived in 
Poland after three nights with almost no sleep and two days 
with almost no food. The general had immediately ordered 
them into action, and they were in the trenches for four days. 
They were so exhausted that they could not resist the German 
attack, and out of eight thousand men only two thousand came 
back, and twelve hundred of them went to the hospital. “But 
the amusing thing about it,” he concluded, “was that all the 
time we were being butchered out there, there were six fresh 
regiments being held in reserve two miles away! What on earth 
do you suppose the general was thinking of?” 

As they found their way to what was called the English 
Hotel, though no one spoke English there, they were so con- 
fident of winning General Ivanov’s permission to go to the 
front that they argued about the kbd of battle they wanted to 
see. Robinson hankered for an infantry charge; Reed stuck out 
for a ride with raiding Cossacks. But the next morning a staff 
officer very politely told them that he would have to telegraph 
the Grand Duke. It was only a matter of a few hours, he as- 
sured them, and they went back to their room. A little later an 
officer arrived, and asked them for their papers. It was a mere 
formality, he insisted; the Grand Duke had not been heard 
from, but without doubt he would soon reply, and they could 
proceed to the front. They were not under arrest, the officer 
told them, but he left three guards outside their door. 

Protests were of no avail, but at last an officer explained the 



situation. They had violated a strict regulation by coming to 
Cholm. The officers who had let them proceed, step by step, 
would be punished, but that did not excuse them. The Grand 
Duke had ordered them to be held under guard. They were in 
an attic room, hot and uncomfortable. The food was bad. 
They had no opportunity to exercise, and nothing to read. They 
could not leave the room except to go to the toilet, and then a 
Cossack accompanied them. The Cossacks were friendly, and 
there were usually half a dozen of them in the room, talking 
with the aid of the French-Russian dictionary, marvelling at 
Robinson’s drawings, arguing among themselves— with only mild 
academic interest— as to whether the captives were German spies 
or not. There was only one who was at all obnoxious; when 
Reed threw him downstairs, the others were dehghted. 

Fourteen days they spent in that hot attic room, with nothing 
to do but engage in difficult conversation with the Cossacks or 
watch the life of the Jewish section from their window. Reed 
wrote poems, planned a novel, played double-dummy bridge 
with Robinson, and fretted. They wrote telegrams to the Brit- 
ish and American ambassadors and to Hovey, but the officials 
did not dispatch them. Finally a telegram was dehvered to the 
American ambassador, who replied that he had learned from 
the Department of Foreign Affairs that they were to be sent to 
Petrograd. They waited two more days, and then, when Reed 
was fully convinced that he was going to go crazy, a colonel 
appeared and freed them. 

The colonel gave them the impression that they could either 
return to Bucharest or go on to Petrograd, where they might be 
able to get passes for the front. Believing their detention to 
have been due to a misunderstanding, and stiU eager to see the 
battle, they proceeded to Petrograd. Although they had been 
assured that they were free, they observed that their compart- 
ment was guarded, and at each station an inspector made sure 
that they had not disappeared. 

There was a general in their compartment, and he very care- 
fully closed all the windows. Reed, who always insisted on hav- 
ing plenty of fresh ah, walked up and down with his hands in 


his pocket, thinking. He lay down in the upper berth— it was 
Robinson’s turn to have the lower— and waited for the general 
to go to sleep. When he thought it was safe, he reached out and 
quietly opened the window. The general arose swiftly and shut 
it. Reed immediately opened it. They wrangled furiously, neither 
understanding the other, until the guard came in. He announced 
that it was a law that windows must be shut if any one objected 
to having them open. Reed tried to persuade the general, through 
a series of translators, that his health would be benefited by 
fresh air, but the most he would concede was the opening of 
the door. 

As soon as he reached Petrograd, Reed hastened to find the 
ambassador, George T. Marye. Mr. Marye was having lunch at 
the Astoria Hotel, a precise, shrunken little man with glasses 
and a white mustache. Reed went over and told him who he 
was. “Mr. Reed,” he said in a dry, quavering voice, “I am very 
glad to see you in Petrograd. You have given this office a great 
deal of anxiety— a great deal. Now, Mr. Reed, I do not want 
to insist on your misdemeanors, but my best advice is for you 
to leave Russia by the shortest route.” 

“Leave Russia!” Reed said in amazement. “What for?” 

“Why,” Marye answered testily, “it should be perfectly evi- 
dent why. The dispatches which I have received from the 
foreign office concerning you are very alarming— very alarm- 
ing indeed. When you were arrested, the military authorities 
asked me if you were known to the embassy; if not, they would 
hand you over to a military court-martial for severe punish- 

Reed demanded to know what charges had been made against 
him, and Marye led him to his office. When Reed lit a cigarette, 
the ambassador said, “No one smokes here.” He refused to per- 
mit Reed to examine the papers himself, reading the notes aloud. 
The foreign office maintained that Reed and Robinson had 
entered Russia on false passports, had disobeyed a military regu- 
lation, and had been carrying letters to revolutionaries in Russia. 
Reed pointed out that there was nothing the matter with his 
passport, and that the alleged letters to revolutionaries were 



merely the authorization that the Bucharest legation had given 
him to investigate the condition of certain American citizens. 

Marye remained skeptical. He understood, he said, that Reed 
was to be expelled by way of Stockholm, and when Reed said 
he had heard nothing to that effect, the ambassador advised him 
to leave in any case and leave immediately. Reed asked him 

The ambassador leaned over with a frightened look. “There 
is a story going around, Mr. Reed, that you fired on the French 
from the German trenches.” 

“I have heard it,” Reed said. “Do the authorities charge me 
with that?” 

“They do not, Mr. Reed, but I am afraid they will find out.” 

“All right,” Reed said; “if they are holding that against me, 
let them come out with it. I am not afraid to face that story.” 

Marye shook his head mournfully. “You are in a country,” 
he said, “where, once suspicion is fastened on you, you might 
as well be guilty. Suspicion is fastened on you now, Mr. Reed. 
If that story should ever get out, it would be very damaging to 

The next morning Reed went again to the embassy and talked 
with the first secretary, who began by implying that Reed and 
Robinson were liars, and ended by advising them to remain 
quietly in their hotel. 

“But the ambassador,” Reed pointed out, “advised me to leave 
the country at once.” 

“Don’t attempt to leave by any means,” Mr. Wilson insisted. 
“It will be very serious if you do.” 

Reed was becoming thoroughly indignant, but he controlled 
himself, and asked if the embassy would receive the baggage 
which he had ordered sent from Bucharest. “I doubt it very 
much,” Wilson said. “We are not in the shipping business. I 
am not sure that we can do anything for you.” 

Robinson in the meantime had been to the British embassy. 
Although he had taken out his first citizenship papers in the 
United States, where he had hved for eighteen years, and had 
applied for his second papers, he was stiU, having been bom in 
Canada, technically a British subject. One of the secretaries 


assured him that he could not be expelled, and offered to inter- 
cede for Reed as well. 

Reed continued to meet Marye in the lobby of the Astoria 
Hotel, and each time he would step up to him and ask, so that 
every one could hear, “Well, what are you going to do for an 
American citizen?” Finally he went to the office and insisted 
on seeing Marye, who shook his head dolefully, and said there 
was nothing he could do. “This will make a fine story in the 
magazine,” Reed said, and, stepping to the telephone, called 
Robinson and formally requested him to place Reed’s case as 
well as his own in the hands of the British embassy. 

Sir George Buchanan personally went to see Sazonov, Min- 
ister of Foreign Affairs, and returned confident that the matter 
was settled. But there was still delay, and Reed was impatient. 
“I have a fine story which I want to publish,” he wrote Hovey, 
“on an American ambassador whose coldness and negligence 
and cowardice in the affairs of American citizens in Russia is 
a byword here.” 

He was depressed at what seemed to be the failure of their 
trip. They had seen no active fighting, and, now that they were 
penned up in Petrograd, Italy had gone into the war, the Serbs 
were fighting again, and the Dardanelles campaign had entered 
a new phase. The stay in Petrograd was expensive as well as 
futile. They had moved from the Astoria to a cheaper hotel, 
but, because they could not get their baggage, they had had 
to buy new outfits. 

The incompetence of the Russian government was infuriat- 
ing. One cause of the trouble was the fact that Granville For- 
tescue, who had Metropolitan credentials, had gone direct to 
Berlin from the Russian front, and soon after his departure a 
batteiy had been wiped out. Since Fortescue was violently pro- 
British, the suspicions of the Russians were absurd, but that 
made it no easier for Reed and Robinson. Fundamentally, how- 
ever, the situation resulted from the fact that a variety of offi- 
cials had blundered in permitting them to go as far as Cholm, 
and the whole attempt of the government was to cover up these 


Everywhere they went they were followed by spies. There 
were four types of secret police, and they were watched by 
representatives of all four. They could look out their window 
at any time of day or night, and see half a dozen of them stand- 
ing around. Plaguing detectives became their favorite amuse- 
ment. Once they threw a group into a mild panic by pointedly 
smdying them through what appeared to be binoculars but were 
beer bottles. Another time they took a cab and ordered the 
driver to go fast, swing suddenly round a comer, and stop. As 
the detectives in their cab swung round the corner after them, 
Reed and Robinson rose, raised their hats, and bowed. They 
spent the rest of the afternoon followmg the detectives. 

Ten days passed, and they decided, out of boredom, to try 
to escape. They bribed the Petrograd police to stamp their 
passports with an official permit, left the hotel suddenly, changed 
cabs several times, and took the train for Kiev and Bucharest. 
At Vilna the next morning a poUce officer courteously woke 
them up. “A thousand pardons,” he said, “but I am ordered by 
telegraph to ask you to leave the train here and return to Petro- 
grad— and to depart immediately from Russia by way of Vladi- 

As soon as they were back in their hotel, two officers of the 
secret police came and took them to the chief. He read them 
the order received from the Grand Duke: “Mr. Boardman Rob- 
inson, British subject, and Mr. John Reed, American citizen, 
are herewith commanded to leave Petrograd for Vladivostok 
within twenty-four hours of the receipt of this; in case of non- 
compliance they are to be delivered to a military court-martial 
and severely punished.” 

Their interpreter discovered that no train left for Vladivos- 
tok within the specified time. Reed went again to Marye and 
explained what had happened, adding that he had no money. 
“I don’t know what we can do for you, Mr. Reed,” the am- 
bassador said. “I am not sure whether the Department has au- 
thorized us to advance you any money. As for the difficulty 
about the train, we will see . . 

“And if the Department has not authorized you to advance 


me any money,” Reed asked, “or if you cannot arrange for a 
stay of a few hours until the train goes, what am I to do?” 

“I am sure I don’t know, Mr. Reed,” Marye answered. 

WhQe Reed was vainly arguing with Marye, Robinson went 
to Buchanan, who saw Sazonov and protested so forcefully that 
not only was the order canceled but the secret police were with- 
drawn. On the nineteenth of July, after writing Marye a letter 
that gave him much satisfaction, Reed, with Robinson, took the 
train for Bucharest. 

Their papers had all been taken from them at VUna, and were 
stiU held by the Russian government, but they were searched 
at the Roumanian border. Reed, for some reason, was given a 
more rigorous examination than Robinson. He was practically 
undressed, and the seams of his wallet were cut open. One 
section, however, in which he had a few notes on pogroms, was 
left untouched. The notes were unimportant, but Reed was 
delighted at having beaten the Russian police. 

As soon as they were established in the Bucharest hotel, they 
set to work to make up for the loss of notes and sketches by 
immediately setting down their impressions. Casting up the bal- 
ance sheet of his Russian experiences, Reed found much to like. 
He hked the broad-gauge railways, with the wide, tall cars and 
long, comfortable berths. They belonged to the amazing coun- 
tryside through which the trains passed: leagues and leagues of 
ancient forest; thatched towns hours apart; fields, golden-heavy 
with wheat, stretching as far as the eye could see. The spirit 
of the people matched the country. “Russian ideals are the most 
exhilarating,” Reed wrote, “Russian thought the freest, Russian 
art the most exuberant; Russian food and drink are to me the 
best, and Russians themselves are, perhaps, the most interesting 
human beings that exist.” The Russian sense of space and time 
pleased him: “In America we are the possessors of a great em- 
pire— but we live as if this were a crowded island like England, 
where our civilization came from. Our streets are narrow and 
our cities congested . . . Russia is also a great empire; but there 
the people live as if they knew it were one.” And he liked the 
freedom of the Russians from the conventions and traditions 



of the western world: “Every one acts just as he feels like acting, 
and says just what he wants to. There are no particular times 
for getting up or going to bed or eating dinner, and there is no 
conventional way of murdering a man, or of making love.” 

He disliked the constant sense of being spied upon, though 
the antics of the secret police often amused him. He was stag- 
gered by the revelations of graft, so freely talked about by the 
people he met: seventeen million bushels of wheat that had 
disappeared; a battleship paid for but never built; a fort that 
existed only on paper. Foreigners described the elaborate proc- 
esses of bribery that were a part of every business transaction. 
Exposures led to the execution of some officials and the e xiling 
of others, but the graft went on. And he was horrified by the 
treatment of the Jews, the shameless violation of the Tsar’s 
pledges, the frank clamor for further persecution and more 
terrible oppression. 

He observed that the middle class was ardently supporting the 
war. Through their hold upon the court and the aristocracy, 
the Germans had made Russia almost a commercial colony, and 
Russian business men were eager to throw off the double burden 
of German exploitation and imperial corruption. For the mo- 
ment the workers, and even, in a vague way, the peasants were 
supporting them. But there had been many strikes in the early 
months of the war, and, though they had been cruelly sup- 
pressed, there was sail talk of further uprisings. The revolution- 
aries were active, in the face of terror, and even a casual visitor 
caught a glimpse of what they were doing to prepare the people 
for the overthrow of the Tsar. It was a mysterious country, 
and Reed felt unwilling to prophesy, but he crossed the border 
with a strong conviction that violent chang^could not long 
be postponed in Russia. 

He wrote down his impressions in his room in the Athenee 
Palace Hotel, while Robinson worked in the adjoining room at 
his sketches. At intervals they would examine each other’s work. 
Often Robinson would say, “But it didn’t happen this way; it 
happened that way.” Reed would explode. Crying, “What the 
hell difference does it make?” he would seize one of Robinson’s 
sketches. “She didn’t have a bundle as big as that,” he would 


say; or, “He didn’t have a full beard.” Robinson would explain 
that he wasn’t interested in photographic accuracy; he was try- 
ing to give the right impression. “Exactly,” Reed would shout 
in triumph; “that is just what I am trying to do.” 

He did not hesitate to alter or even to invent. He might tell 
as if it had happened to him something that he had learned at 
second-hand. His deviations from factual accuracy were not, as 
they might have been with another man, the result of failures 
of his powers of observations, for his eyes and his memory were 
almost perfect. His alterations and inventions were the dehber- 
ate result of a determination to give the reader precisely the im- 
pression he had received. If, in describing his visit to the hos- 
pital at Lille, he had said that a soldier threw his iron cross on 
the floor, whereas actually the man had laid it on his bed, it 
was because he detected in the soldier’s manner a suggestion 
of contempt that could only be conveyed to the reader in the 
terms of a more violent gesture. So, as he worked on his stories 
of Russia, he strove for the fidelity of the artist rather than the 
accuracy of the statistician, and Robinson could testify that the 
essential veracity of his stories was extraordinary. 

For several days they worked in the baking heat, leaving 
their rooms only after the sun had set. Reed learned that Buch- 
arest meant literally “City of Joy,” and that its residents were 
fond of calling it the Paris of the Balkans. It was a “made” city, 
less than thirty years old, a city of imitations. The mhabitants 
boasted of their descent from the old Roman legions, making 
much of their ties with the other Romance peoples and their 
superiority to their Balkan neighbors. Living in the city was 
more expensive than living in New York, and it was given its 
tone by the fashionable rich, driving in handsome carriages, 
flirting on the boulevards, visiting galleries filled with imitations 
of French art, attending revues modeled after those of Paris, 
Berlin, or Vienna. They were the land-o-wners, a few thousand 
out of a population of nearly eight million, seven-eighths of 
whom were working peasants, paid twenty cents or less a day 
in a country with a cost of living that was high by American 
standards. And over the heads of the peasants and the land- 


owners and even the king, the financial interests of Germany 
and the Alhes fought for the allegiance of Romnania. 

It was in Bucharest that Reed met Frank, an American who 
worked for a subsidiary of Standard Oil. Frank was going to 
England to enlist. “England is fighting for the rights of small 
nations,” he said, “and I don’t see how anybody can keep out 
of it that’s got any guts.” 

Reed, having finished his articles, left for Constantinople- 
alone because Boardman Robinson had a British passport. At 
the railroad station he saw Frank saying good-bye to a shabby, 
undernourished, weeping Roumanian girl. On the train Frank 
explained that he had lived with the girl for nine months. 
Everyone in the oil-fields, he said, took a girl to cook, wash, 
look after the house, and live with him. The girls weren’t paid, 
of course; they had food and a place to stay and, if they were 
good, their clothes. In five years or so it would be advisable for 
him to marry and settle down. He’d look around at home in 
America, pick a pretty girl with no scandal about her and a 
social pull, and marry her. Reed was indignant and said so; “If 
I lived with a girl, whether we were married or not. I’d make 
her my equal, financially and every other way. And as for your 
plans for marriage, how can you marry any one you don’t 
love?” “Hell,” said Frank, “if you’re going to get sentimental—” 

They separated at Sofia, both considerably reheved. Reed, 
after talking with a few acquaintances, sent Robinson a post- 
card, predicting that Bulgaria would enter the war on the side 
of the Central Powers, and took the train for Constantinople. 
There were men of all nations on the train, and he noticed how 
naturally the French and Enghsh mingled with the Germans 
and Austrians, how easily the old habit of international intimacy 
re-asserted itself. But in the morning the English, French, and 
Russians had disappeared, for the train had entered the Turk- 
ish Empire and was driving south across flat, bare, sun-baked 
plains. Late in the afternoon, troop trains appeared, filled with 
Arabs, and at midnight Reed was in Constantinople. 

He awoke the next morning to hear an immense lazy roar, 
the sound of shuffling slippers, the bellow of peddlers, the bark- 
ing of dogs, the droning of schoolboys. From the balcony he 


could see the tangle of wooden houses, the Golden Horn with 
a few yachts and cruisers and swarms of little boats, and Stam- 
boul’s seven hills and innumerable mosques. Before he set out 
with his guide, the porter informed him that the police had been 
making inquiries, but Reed was used to the police. Daoud Bey, 
a wealthy young Turk to whom he had a letter of introduction, 
led him through the European section and the crowded square 
to the bridge across the Bosphorus. The drawbridge was up, 
and Daoud Bey hired a boat to take them to Stamboul. On the 
other side they pressed through the crowd of peddlers, pilgr ims, 
merchants, porters, and soldiers. Daoud Bey showed him the 
bazaars, and in one of the booths, with the air strong with scent 
of drugs, perfumes, herbs, and love philters, they had coffee and 
cigarettes. They wandered through intricate winding streets, 
across the quiet courtyards of the great mosques, in and out of 
bazaars. They dined in a garden in Pera, watching the German 
and Austrian officers, civilian officials, merchants, and American 
sailors as they strolled by. At night they returned to Stamboul 
and saw an open-air vaudeville show. It was almost impossible 
to remember that, just out of hearing, were the guns of Gallip- 
oli, but that night, on his way back to his hotel, Reed cgught 
a glimpse of ambulances bringing the wounded from a Red 
Crescent ship to the hospital. 

He had hoped to be allowed to go to the front, but after 
waiting day after day at the war department, the department of 
foreign affairs, the press bureau, and the police department, 
after being told on one day to get an identification card from 
the American embassy and on the next to present a photograph, 
after being sent from bureau to consulate and from consulate 
to bureau, and after finally learning that the documents he had 
so arduously collected had been mislaid, he gave up the attempt, 
and contented himself with interviewing Achmet Effendi, a 
prince of the imperial blood, seventh in line for the Sultanate. 
In an abandoned English villa, after much preliminary exchange 
of courtesies, Reed met a dumpy, bloated little man in a gray 
cutaway suit, who asked him questions about New York and 
told him nothing. 

Once more Reed had been disappointed. After two weeks’ 



delay, Enver Pasha told him that he could not go to the front, 
and he was unofficially notified that he had better leave Turkey. 
At the Bulgarian frontier he was halted and told to return to 
Constantinople because his passport was not properly made out. 
Instead, Reed, waiting until the train was leaving the station, 
jumped aboard. He spent the night in toilets, on tops of cars, 
in the tender, and on the rods. Several times the train was 
halted and searched, but he managed to slip off and hide, thanks 
to the darkness, and to catch the train as it resumed its journey. 
The train crew, given a little money, helped him. In the morn- 
ing he slipped into a toilet with his bag and changed his clothes. 
At Sofia, emerging in a linen suit and panama hat, he passed 
without difficulty through the police cordon. He immediately 
went to police headquarters and told the whole story, to the 
chief’s amusement. 

In Sofia Reed and Robinson met again. They had hoped to 
get out to the British fleet, and Reed had even had some idea 
of disguising himself as a melon-seller, but once more their plans 
were blocked. They were not sorry, however, that they had 
come to Sofia, for they soon realized that Reed’s post-card 
prophecy was about to be fulfilled. Reed liked the Bulgarians, 
friendly, honest people, and he liked Sofia, so different in its 
simple practicality from the pretentiousness of Bucharest. There 
seemed to be no rich people, and the peasants, farming their 
land communally, appeared prosperous and contented. And be- 
cause he liked Bulgaria and the Bulgarians, he hated to see the 
country drawn, against the expressed will of the people, into 
the war. Seven out of the thirteen political parties, representing 
a majority of the population, registered their disapproval of an 
alliance wnith Germany and demanded the calling of parliament, 
but the king, his ministers, and the military authorities delayed 
until they were ready to decree mobilization and suppress op- 
position. Both the Allies and the Central Powers had offered ter- 
ritory and loans, but the Germans had offered more. 

WeU-mformed correspondents warned Reed and Robinson 
that they had better leave Sofia. They went to Nish in Serbia, 
where every one doubted their statement that Bulgaria was on 
the verge of mobUmtion and war, but two days later the de- 



crec was issued. They had expected a warm welcome in Serbia, 
but Reed’s account of their observations of five months before 
had already appeared, and the sensitive Serbs detected a note 
of mockery. Reed, informed that he would probably be expelled 
when hostilities commenced, was in any case weary of the Bal- 
kans. He and Robinson went to Salonika, where there were no 
more rumors than usual, and they took ship for Italy and home. 

In his ironic preface to the collection of his Metropolitan 
articles, The War in Eastern Europe, Reed recorded the dis- 
appointments of the expedition. Having planned to spend three 
months, they w^ere gone nearly seven. They missed Italy’s en- 
trance into the war, and they saw no fighting in the Dardanelles. 
They arrived in Serbia just after one Austrian drive, and left 
just before another. Having expected to see a great Russian 
advance, they were in Russia at the time of, but were not per- 
mitted to see, a great Russian retreat. But, though Reed liked the 
personal excitement of active warfare and knew that his reputa- 
tion as a war-correspondent depended on his reporting of 
battles, their experience had not been unenlightening. “It was 
our luck evcr3rwhere,” he wrote, “to arrive during a compara- 
tive lull in the hostilities. And for that very reason, perhaps, 
we were better able to observe the more normal life of the 
eastern nations, under the steady strain of long-drawn-out war- 
fare. In the excitement of sudden invasion, desperate resistance, 
capture and destruction of cities, men seem to lose their dis- 
tinctive personal or racial flavor, and become alike in the mad 
democracy of battle. As we saw them, they had settled down 
to war as a business, had begun to adjust themselves to this new 
way of life and to talk and think of other things.” 

“War as a business!” It was that, above all else, that Reed 
could not tolerate. It was bad enough for men to kill each other, 
but that murder should become a habit made one despair for 
dviiization. John Reed liked people. He enjoyed meeting the 
mm and women of all nations and all classes. He thought well, 
and large, of the human race. And war, despite individual 
kmmxs of coun^e or gener<»ity, systematically crushed the 
finor hmmn quaJoiK. For the sake of the profits of a few— and 



that view of the war was not a dogma from a book but a simple 
fact verified again and again— millions of men were not merely 
sacrificing their own lives and taking the lives of others but 
surrendering everything that gave life value. He came back 
from the eastern front, as he had come back from the western, 
saying, “This is not our war.” 


Breathing Spell 

F inancially it had been a profitable trip, for the Metro- 
politan had paid generously, and that was just as well. His 
mother and brother, in order to hold on to the debt-bur- 
dened property Mr. Reed had left, needed several hundred 
dollars at once, and this Reed cheerfully gave them. First and 
last, a good share of the thousands of dollars he earned during 
the years of prosperity went to Portland. He did not begrudge 
it, not only because he was naturally generous, but also because 
he did not forget the sacrifices his parents had made for him. 

He planned to visit Portland, but first he had his articles to 
finish. While he was staying in New York, he delivered two 
lectures, one at the Harvard Club and one before the inmates 
of Sing Sing prison. The audience at the Harvard Club was 
skeptical of his stories, the tales of innumerable arrests, the flight 
from Constantinople, the sights of the battlefields. As he sensed 
the hostility of his listeners, he became arrogant, deliberately 
exaggerating the stories in order to shock these smug stay-at- 
homes. And afterwards, realizing that he had not been believed, 
had not even been taken seriously, had not convinced any one 
of the truth about the war, he was unhappy. 

It was different at Sing Sing. C. J. Reed had known Thomas 
Mott Osborne well, and John Reed had followed with warm 
approval Osborne’s attempts at prison reform. He had dinner 
with Osborne and Spencer Miller, who were fascinated by his 
accounts of his adventures. When he stood before the prisoners 
in the crowded chapel, he began, with complete naturalness, 
‘^Hello, fellows,” and instantly there was applause. He talked a 




little about his own experiences in American and European jails, 
and then went on to speak of the labor movement and the peace 
movement as phases of the straggle for freedom. He spoke 
exactly as if he were talking to a group of workers in a labor 
union hall, and there was no doubt that he felt more at home 
than he had at the Harvard Club. The men listened eagerly, 
not particularly caring, perhaps, whether his stories were true 
or false, but relishing the boldness and humor of the speaker, 
and catching rather more of what he was trying to say than his 
feUow-alumni had caught. When he finished, the applause ex- 
ceeded anything that Osborne and MiUer could recall. 

A few days later he left for Portland. “I have been here one 
day,” he wrote a friend on December 5, 1915. “It is awful be- 
yond words. Mother is so kind, so loving, so absolutely helpless 
from my point of view. I don’t feel as if I could talk to a single 
person here. It seems to me very wrong to have to undergo an- 
other long period of suspended animation after the seven 
months’ one I’ve just been through. I wish I were home! I wish 
I could see you all again!” 

Within a fortnight the friend received another letter: “I 
think I’ve found Her at last. She’s wild, brave, and straight— 
and graceful and lovely to look at. In this spiritual vacuum, this 
unfertilized soil, she has grown (how, I can’t imagine) inm an 
artist. She is coming to New York to get a job— with me, I hope. 
I think she’s the first person I ever loved without reservation.” 

Her name was Louise Bryant TruUinger. She had been 
brought up by her grandfather, the younger son of an Anglo- 
Irish lord, and had gone to the University of Nevada and the 
University of Oregon. After her graduation, she found that 
she had no more funds and took a position as teacher on an is- 
land in Puget Sound. Unable to bear the isolation, she went to 
Seatde and worked for a short time in a canning factory. Sub- 
sequently, having gone to Portland, she did fashion drawings 
for a newspaper, and then began to write feature stories. It was 
at this time that she met and married Dr. Paul TmlKnger. 

Having had a glimpse of Reed during his visit to Po rtlan d in 
1914, she had followed his work with admirir^ enthusiasm. 
When she learned from Carl and Helen Walters that he was 



coming to Portland in December, 1915, she was eager to meet 
him, and they arranged to have Reed and her for dinner. But 
Reed met her by accident that day, and went to her home to 
see some of her writing, and when the two of them arrived for 
dinner, the Walterses knew they were in love. They were de- 
lighted, for they liked Louise as much as they did Jack. She 
was beautiful, courageous, and talented. She was also unhappy, 
and John Reed became not merely a lover but a bold knight res- 
cuing a fair maiden. 

He returned to New York, and in a little while she followed, 
joining him in his apartment on Washington Square. He took 
her to see ail his friends, boasted of her beauty and talent, and 
taught her to know and love New York as he did. They went 
on long walks to parts of the city that had aroused or excited 
him, and attended plays and concerts and operas. At the Masses 
ball, he was proud of the attention she attracted. When he had 
to be away, they wrote each other long letters every day. 

Despite this new pre-occupation, and despite the fact that he 
was working very hard, for the demand for his writing was 
strong, he found time for lecturing. At the Labor Forum he not 
only denounced Theodore Roosevelt and the other advocates 
of preparedness but urged the workers to refuse to fight, and 
said, in the course of the question period, that a civil war would 
be necessary to take the government of the United States away 
from the plutocracy and restore it to the people. At Columbia, 
speaking before the Social Study Club, he told the students that 
they need not expect the war to disgust men with fighting; on 
the contrary, it would foster the habit of killing. 

Because he recognized the strength of the martial spirit, he 
found the emotional pacifism of many of his friends unrealistic 
and ineffectual, and at the Intercollegiate Socialist Society he 
ventured the suggestion, to the horror of the pacifist^" that the 
workers should arm. “A drilled nation,” he said, “in the power 
of the capitalist class is dangerous, but a drilled natiomin the 
hands of the workers would be intere^g. For instance, if the 
men employed in the munitions factori^^ould take it into their 
heads to train a little now and then, if they should familiarize 
themselves with guns, isn’t there just a chance that their de- 


mands for better conditions would be listened to with somewhat 
more attention and respect?” He was beginning to feel that the 
great question was not whether force should be used but who 
should use it. 

One of his briefest and most effective speeches was at a mass 
meeting called to protest Emma Goldman’s arrest for advocat- 
ing birth control. A dozen speakers addressed the meeting, each 
taking more time than had been assigned him. The audience, 
eager to hear Miss Goldman, who had been placed last on the 
program, grew restless. When Reed was called upon, he said, 
“I too am tired. I too want to hear Emma Goldman.” And he 
sat down. 

Suddenly the Mexican issue re-emerged. On January 10, 
nineteen employees of an American mining company were shot 
in Mexico. Immediately the interventionists were clamoring at 
Washington. “Cahfomia and Texas were part of Mexico once,” 
WiUiam Randolph Hearst wrote. “What has been done in Cali- 
fornia and Texas by the United States can be done ah the way 
down to the southern bank of the Panama Canal and beyond. 
And if this country really wanted to do what would be for 
the best interests of civilization, ... the pacifying, prosperity- 
giving influence of the United States would be extended south 
to include both sides of the great canal.” 

Reed gave an interview to Robert Mountsier, which was 
published in many papers throughout the country. He did not 
dwell on the moral issues but described the cost of intervention. 
“Every Mexican,” he said, “of whatever faction, will take up 
arms against the hated gringo. Even the women and children 
will join in the fighting.” He spoke of the courage of the Mexi- 
cans, their resourcefulness in guerrilla warfare, the possibilities of 
tropical disease, and the certainty of death for thousands of 
Ame^an soldiers. 

Two pionths later came the attack of Villa’s men on Colum- 
busi New Mexico, with the death of nine civilians and eight 
American troopers., ^hile Pershing prepared to pursue Villa, 
Reed gave another interview, and wrote a syndicated article. 
Once more he spoke of the dangers of intervention, and this 
time he paid tribute as well to Villa’s personal qualities. He had 


been convinced, to his regret, that Villa was not the social ideal- 
ist he had assumed, but he still admired him. “I don’t care if he 
is only a bandit,” he told John Kenneth Turner, after reading 
Turner’s analysis of Villa’s course of self-aggrandizement; “I 
like him just the same.” He thought a little of going to Mexico 
to report Pershing’s expedition from Villa’s side. 

While he watched events in Mexico, he found New York 
as exciting as ever. He went to Sing Sing for the electrocution 
of a man named Hans Schmidt. After spending the night with 
Spencer Miller, at 5.45 he saw Schmidt placed in the electric 
chair. For some reason he could not analyze, the sight of the 
death of this man at the indifferent hands of legal authority 
affected him more than the battlefields and war-hospitals of 
Europe. He went straight to the nearest bar, and, he told his 
friends, drank a quart of whiskey without feeling it. Perhaps he 
exaggerated the amount, for, though he sometimes gave the con- 
trary impression, he was never a heavy drinker. 

The same eagerness for experience sent him, with George Bel- 
lows, to see Jess Willard fight Frank Moran. He had hoped that 
he might make a story of it, but the most it inspired him to write 
was a sardonic commentary on the commercialization of boxing. 
He made fun of the newspaper ballyhoo, Willard’s statements, 
Moran’s statements, the prices charged for admission, the so- 
cially elite in the expensive seats, the people who were impressed 
by the socially elite, the preliminaries, the semi-finals, the Har- 
monious Blacksmith who sang ‘Wake up, America,” the camera- 
men, the introduction of past celebrities, and the fight itself. 
He was equally irritated by the greed of the promoters and the 
stupidity of the spectators, and he was sorry he went. 

Collier’s sent him to Florida to interview William Jennings 
Bryan. “The bloated siUy people on this ridiculous private rich 
man’s train,” he wrote Louise Bryant on the way, “throw pen- 
nies and dimes and quarters to be scrambled for by the Negroes 
■Bdienever we stop at a station. Lord, how the white folks scream 
with laughter to see the coons fight each other, gouge each other’s 
eyes, get bleeding lips, scrambling over the money. Why don’t 
you suggest to Floyd Dell that some one draw a cartoon about 
k for the Masses? All the whites in this section look mean and 



cruel and vain. Have you ever seen Jim Crow cars, colored wait- 
ing rooms in stations, etc.? I have seen them before, so they 
don’t shock me so much as they did. Just make me feel sick. I 
hate the South.” 

Reed joined Bryan at Palatka, and the Great Commoner, 
remembering their previous meeting, welcomed him cordially 
and gave him a ticket to his lecture that night. The next morn- 
ing they went together up the St. John River, with Bryan ad- 
dressing the natives at each landing. In his private conversation, 
as in his public addresses, the former Secretary of State employed 
pompous platitudes, and Reed took pleasure in drawing him out. 
He was opposed to war, but, asked what he would do if his 
country were fighting for an unjust cause, he said that he could 
not answer hypothetical questions. He denounced trusts but 
praised capitalism: “Competition,” he said, “is absolutely neces- 
sary to commercial life, just as the air we breathe is necessary 
to physical life.” 

He spoke eloquently about religion, and Reed led him from 
religion to morality and from morality, by way of censorship, to 
art. When Reed said that he personally opposed censorship of 
any kind, Bryan declared in amazement, “Well, I never met any 
one before who didn’t believe that decency should be pre- 
served.” Reed went on to maintain that the human body was 
beautiful, and Bryan crushingly retorted, “I suppose you would 
advocate people’s going naked on the street.” When Reed said 
cheerfully, “Why not?” Bryan frowned and announced, “We 
won’t discuss that subject any more.” 

In writing his account of the interview, Reed did not hesitate 
to emphasize Bryan’s fatuousness, but at the same time he paid 
tribute to his humanitarianism. “After all,” he wrote, “whatever 
is said, Bryan has always been on the side of democracy. Re- 
member that he was talking popular government twenty years 
ago and getting called ‘anarchist’ for it; remember that he ad-, 
vocated such things as the income tax, the popular election of 
senators, railroad regulation, low tariff, the destruction of pri- 
vate monopoly, and the initiative and referendum when such 
things were considered the dreams of an idiot; and remember 
that he is not yet done.” In recalling Bryan’s service to reform. 



Reed was making clear that, though he had little respect for the 
man, his criticisms were not to be identified with those of the 
reactionaries and war-mongers, who were trying in their ridicule 
of Bryan to discredit every effort to regulate private industry 
or preserve peace. 

WJien Reed submitted his record of the interview, Bryan de- 
leted most of the discussion of censorship on the ground that art 
was a field in which he had no expert knowledge. Otherwise he 
accepted Reed’s report as correct. In returning the notes, he 
wrote, “If you wHl pardon my personal interest in you, I will 
enclose an order on my publishers for The Prince of Peace. I 
feel that in maturer years you wiU give more consideration to 
the faith in which you were reared, and which is a source of 
strength as well as a consolation to so many millions.” 

It was not difficult for Reed to secure magazine assignments 
such as the interview with Bryan, despite his reputation as a radi- 
cal. In the spring of 1916, though the retreat from the new free- 
dom was under way, a touch of radicalism was still something 
of an asset to a competent journalist. He was given an inkling of 
how wealth could be secured when a prominent industrialist 
with an eye on the presidency approached him and asked him to 
become his publicity manager. The industrialist had calculated 
the value of Reed’s following among the liberals and radicals as 
well as his skill as a journalist, and he was willing to pay for 
both. It was an excellent chance to sell out, and many of Reed’s 
Dutch Treat friends would have told him he was a fool to 

The problem of integrity, however, was easy; Reed did not 
have to think twice before rejecting the steel magnate’s offer. 
But the whole problem of his future as a writer was complicated. 
Robert Rogers told him that, good as his journalism was, it only 
expressed a small part of his nature. It was time, Rogers said, for 
a novel or a long poem. Reed knew Rogers was right, and he 
was constantly making notes and outlines for a novel, but he 
never got beyond the drafting of plans or the writing of a few 
tentative pages. There seemed to him to be something final about 
a novel, and he was not ready for finality. Not only was the 



world changing too rapidly; he felt that, if he began a novel, he 
would be a different person when he finished it. If he marked 
time by continuing with articles and doing occasional stories 
that were deliberate pot-boilers, it was because he felt that he 
was not ready for the pouring of his whole nature mto some sus- 
tained effort. 

He noticed to his surprise that he was writing much less poetry 
than he once had. Indeed, he had written almost nothing in re- 
cent months except two rather fine love poems, “Pygmalion” 
and “Love at Sea,” and the somber “Fog.” In dignified unrhymed 
verse, rich and musical, he translated the old legend of Pygmalion 
and Galatea into a delicate, nostalgic symbol of the quest for the 
ideal lover and its frustration— 

He wrenched the shining rock from the meadow’s breast. 

And out of it shaped the lovely, almost-breathing 
Form of his dream of his love of the world’s women. 

Slim and white was she, whimsical, full of caprice; 

Bright sharp in sunlight, languid in shadow of cloud. 

Pale in the dawn, and flushed at the end of day. 

The poem ended: 

Rock is she still, and her heart is the hfll’s heart. 

Full of all things beside him— full of wind and bees 
And the long falling miles and miles of air. 

Despair and gnawing are on him, and he knows her 
Unattainable who is bom of wind and lull— 

Far-bright as a plunging full-sailed ship that seems 
Hull-down to be set immutable in sea. 

In the second poem he spoke of love’s defiance of an mdiffer- 
ent world, using the image of the sea on which he was being 
carried from his beloved: 

This cool green fluid death shall toss us living 
Higher than high heaven and deeper than sighs— 

But O the abrupt, stiff, sloping, resistless foam 
Shall not forbid our taking and our giving! 



I cried upon God last night, and God was not where I cried; 

He was slipping and balancing on the thoughtless shifting planet 
of sea. 

Careless and cruel, he will unchain the appalling sea-gray engines— 
But the speech of my body to your body will not be denied. 

Simpler than either of the love poems was “Fog.” Melancholy 
was rare with John Reed. Even though he was often ill in the 
spring of 1916, the thought of death seldom came to him. But in 
some strange moment, there was sufficient lull in his fiery vitality 
to give him a sense of what dying might be like. And he seized 
upon it, curious about that as about all experiences. 

Death comes like this, I know— 

Snow-soft and gently cold; 

Impalpable ban^ons of thin mist. 

Light-quenching and sound-smothering and slow. 

Slack as a wind-spilled sail 
The spent world flaps in space— 

Day’s but a grayer night, and the old sun 
Up the blind sky goes heavily and pale. 

Out of aU circumstance 
I drift or seem to drift 
In a vague vapor-world that clings and veils 
Great trees arow like kneeling elephants. 

With all his tasks and all his interests clear in his mind^ with his 
passion for Louise strong in his consciousness, he permitted him- 
self to imagine the cessation of activity: 

Now Love and all the warm 
Pageant of livirgness 
Trouble my quiet like forgotten dreams 
Of ancient thunder on the hills of storm. 

And he ended in calm unfaith: 



How loud, how terribly 
Aflame are lights and sounds! 

And yet beyond the fog I know there are 
But lonely bells across gray wastes of sea. 

It was finer work than almost anything he had written before. 
He had not lost his creative ability, but he had lost his fecundity. 
The impulses out of which his poetry grew were genuine 
enough, but they seemed, now, to constitute only a small part of 
his nature. He had been tramed to the use of conventional forms 
for the treatment of what were conventionally regarded as the 
appropriate themes for poetry. He was ready to admit that 
poetry should not be limited to these themes, and he admired the 
work of Sandburg, Masters, and Lindsay, which expressed far 
more of the world in which he lived than his own poems did. 
But he knew that, hampered though he was by the older forms 
he had mastered, it would do him no good to imitate the experi- 
mentalists. He had to have his own form. And it was his way, 
not to put everything else to one side and strive to create the 
new form, but to submerge himself in the life roundabout and 
wait for the new form to develop within him. In the meantime 
he wrote poetry when it was ready to be written, but that was 

T^oughput the spring of 1916, the idea persisted that it was 
not in the novel, not in poetry, that he could find expression, but 
in the drama. Writing Enter Dibble had been fun, but he was 
ready to admit that the future of the theatre did not lie with 
such plays. What kept recurring to him was the possibility of 
building upon his experience with the Paterson pageant. He 
wanted to create a theatre of the working class. Plans to give 
plays for the workers, though he was interested in these, were 
not enough. Hiram ModerweU, Leroy Scott, and others had con- 
ceived a theatre that wotdd produce, at reasonable prices, plays 
that workers would want or ought to want to see. Reed had a 
bolder scheme: labor groups would dramatize the principal 
events in their lives, just as the Paterson workers had dramatized 
their strike. The idea grew: the best dramatizations from aU over 
the country would be presented once a year, on May Day, in 


New York. Reed’s friends caught his enthusiasm, and money for 
initial expenses was quickly raised, but he became absorbed in 
other things, and, since no one else would carry on the task of 
organization, the plan collapsed. 

In facing the whole problem of what he should write, he 
never neglected the Masses, which published two of his earlier 
sketches, “The Capitalist” and “Broadway Night,” his poem 
“Love at Sea,” two brief articles on Mexico, and a major piece 
of journalism, his exposure of the munitions manufacturers and 
their propaganda for war. The Masses had been passing through 
one of its periodical crises, this time a battle between the writers 
and the artists. Max Eastman maintamed that it was a struggle 
between Socialism and Bohemianism, but the artists could see in 
it nothing but an attempt to curb Eastman’s single-handed dom- 
ination of the magazine. Stuart Davis and H. J. Glmtenkamp be- 
gan the attack, but they allowed John Sloan, who was better 
known than they, to become their spokesman. Sloan proposed 
that the magazine be managed by three boards of editors meet- 
mg separately; the writers, to decide on the prose and poetry; 
the artists, to decide on the pictures; and the make-up editors, 
to decide how to fit into the paper what the others had chosen. 
Eastman, reminding them that it was he who raised the funds, 
threatened to resign. The meeting was deadlocked, and decision 
was postponed. At the next meeting, the rebels had a majority, 
but they agreed to wait a day to permit those who were not 
present to vote. On April 6, Floyd Dell and Art Young voted 
four proxies, including Reed’s, all in favor of Eastman, who 
thereby won. 

Reed’s failure to attend the decisive meeting suggests indif- 
ference. He, too, found Eastman dictatorial, but he was able to 
take care of himself, and he recognized that Eastman was more 
interested than most of the editors in the serious discussion of 
economic questions. Reed was beginning to feel that the time 
for so much insistence on sprightHness and variety was passing. 
He wanted the Masses, without losing any of its gay effrontery, 
to be capable of striking heavy blows that the enemy would 
feel. He had no objection to colorful sketches, sarinV^^I com- 
ments, love poems, or anything else that was alive, courageous. 



and honest, but he saw that there was serious business at hand, 
and he believed it should be handled seriously. 

Nothing disturbed him more in the spring of 1916 than the 
growth of the preparedness movement. He had watched with 
anger and alarm the founding of the National Security League, 
Wood’s and Roosevelt’s attempts at creating a private army, the 
opening of the business men’s camp at Plattsburg, and the spread 
of military training in the colleges. The news that Samuel Gom- 
pers had joined Howard Coffin, Ralph Easley, and Hudson 
Maxim in working out details of industrial mobilization infu- 
riated him. The preparedness parade, with its Wall Street sec- 
tions, its thousands of bloodthirsty society women, and its bla- 
tant banners, made him pound on the furniture and shout with 
disgust. This was something that had to be written about, and 
he wrote about it in the Masses. 

“At the Throat of the Republic,” though it began with some 
colorful vituperation of the militarists, especially Theodore 
Roosevelt, was for the most part straightforward exposition, 
handling facts with vicious precision. Reed showed that the Na- 
tional Security League was dominated by Hudson Maxim, presi- 
dent of the Maxim Munitions Corporation, and that among its 
directors were representatives of United States Steel and West- 
inghouse Electric. He showed that the Navy League had as 
directors and officers J. P. Morgan, Edward Stotesbury of the 
Morgan- interests and the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Robert 
Bacon and Henry Frick of United States Steel, George R. Shel- 
don of Bethlehem Steel, and W. A. Clark, the copper-king. He 
pointed out that the Metropolitan, in which Roosevelt advocated 
preparedness, was owned by Harry Payne Whitney, a Morgan 
man and a founder of the Navy League. He traced the various 
interlocking directorates of the Morgan and Rockefeller inter- 
ests, and showed that they dominated both the preparedness so- 
cieties and the newly formed American International Corpora- 
tion, oi^anized for the exploitation of backward countries. He 
touched briefly on the conditions in the industries owned by 
these gentlemen in America, and then he quoted Elihu Root: 
“The principles of American Hberty stand in need of a renewed 
devotion on the part of the American people. We have forgotten 



that in our vast material prosperity. We have grown so rich, we 
have lived in ease and comfort and peace so long, that we have 
forgotten to what we owe these agreeable instances of life.” 
Reed commented: “The workingman has not forgotten. He 
knows to whom he owes ‘these agreeable instances of life.’ He 
will do well to realize that his enemy is not Germany, nor Japan; 
his enemy is that two percent of the people of the United States 
who own sixty percent of the national wealth, that band of 
unscrupulous ‘patriots’ who have already robbed him of all he 
has, and are now pla nning to make a soldier out of him to defend 
their loot. We advocate that the workingman prepare himself 
against that enemy. That is our preparedness.” 

Reed wanted to write novels and poems, wanted to found a 
workers’ theatre, wanted to write for the Masses, wanted to 
£ght against war, wanted to get the most out of New York City 
for himself and for Louise Bryant. But there were two problems 
that he could not forget: money and health. Money meant pri- 
marily work for the Metropolitan and incidentally articles and 
stories for other paying magazines. It was an unpleasant prob- 
lem, but not a difficult one to solve: the magaziues wanted what 
he wrote, and it took a relatively small part of his energy to 
earn enough for his own needs and for the assistance of his 
mother. Health had become a more serious matter. His kidney 
periodically bothered him, and his doctor was talking about an 
operation. In any case, the doctor said, he must have a rest. Re- 
membering the weeks at Provincetown in the summer of 1914, 
he suggested to Louise Bryant that they go there. 

They arrived at the end of May, and early in June he had to 
leave to attend the Republican, Democratic, and Progressive 
conventions for the Metropolitan. On the boat from Fall River 
to New York, he met William Allan Neilson, whose course in 
Chaucer he had enjoyed. They stayed up t alkin g until two, and 
Reed, finding a sympathetic listener, voiced hotly his disgust 
with the warring nations, denying that one side was preferable 
to the other, either in aims or methods. Dr. Neilson thought he 
had gained in strength and self-reliance, but was still the impetu- 
ous, undi^aiminating youth he had been at Harvard. Reed, he 


felt, was a man who needed a cause to believe in, and was un- 
happy because he could not find one. 

In New York the doctors told Reed that he was better, and 
he set out for Chicago, encouraged, but, as he wrote her, lone- 
some for Louise Bryant. He saw Hughes nominated and wit- 
nessed the collapse of the Progressive convention. Then he went 
to Detroit for an interview with Henry Ford, with whom he 
spent part of two days. After observing the re-nomination of 
Wilson at St. Louis, he returned to Detroit, apparently to per- 
suade Ford to finance a newspaper devoted to the cause of peace. 
The attempt failed, though for a little while Reed was swept off 
his feet by a great ambition and a great hope. 

In the division of the fruits of the trip, the Masses once 
more got the better of the Metropolitan. “The National Circus,” 
which appeared in the Metropolitan for September, with car- 
toons by Art Young, was a perfunctory piece of reporting that 
conveyed little to the reader except the author’s boredom and 
his sense of the futility of the whole performance. But for the 
Masses Reed told the story of Roosevelt’s betrayal of the Pro- 
gressives. He began by stating the case against Roosevelt, and he 
stated it with some venom; “We were not fooled by the Col- 
onel’s brand of patriotism. Neither were the munitions makers 
and the money trust; the Colonel was working for their benefit, 
so they backed him.” For the Colonel he had only contempt, 
but, remembering his father, he sympathized with the Progres- 
sives. They were not intelligent radicals, he knew; they were 
“common, ordinary, unenhghtened people, the backwoods ideal- 
ists.” But they were loyal to their ideals, and they had an almost 
religious faith in Teddy. When he refused the nomination, they 
wandered around as if dazed, and more than one of them wept. 
Although, like other Socialists, Reed had predicted this would 
happen, and had laughed at these men for their devotion to a 
person, and to such a person as Theodore Roosevelt, he was 
moved to admiration and sorrow. 

But on the whole, Reed’s visit to Ford was more significant to 
him than anjTthing that happened at the conventions. He liked 
Ford, the audacity with which he talked of miUions of cars, the 
commcm ^nse with which he disposed of complicated problems, 


the streak of romanticism that had resulted in the Peace Ship. 
The efficient organization of production in the Ford plants over- 
whelmed Reed’s imagination. He had a vision of all this power 
in the hands of the workers, and he convinced himself that the 
vision was shared by Henry Ford. Clutching at the fact that 
other industrialists and financiers criticized Ford, he made him- 
self believe that here was a genuine revolutionary. The paternal- 
ism in Ford’s treatment of his employees irritated him, but he 
argued that it was only a phase in the creation of an industrial 
democracy. Ford was so powerful and seemed so benevolent, 
and the working class was so docile, that, for a brief period, 
Reed was ready to put his faith in a Utopia created by kindly 

His enthusiasm did not long survive the failure of his attempt 
to interest Ford in a newspaper, but that was less because he 
made a conscious effort to analyze Ford’s role in the capitalist 
system than because he had other things to think about. In par- 
ticular, he had to make up his mind about Mexico. There was 
talk of enlarging the punitive expedition, and John Wheeler of 
the Wheeler Syndicate wrote him, “It seems to me that this war 
will be a vehicle on which you would ride to a position in the 
literature of the country that would be above everybody else as 
a war-correspondent.” Carl Hovey told him, “You have the 
chance to be the one correspondent in this war.” F. V. Ranck of 
the New York American wired: “Feel that you would be partic- 
ularly effective. Wish you would decide to go. Don’t believe you 
will be able to keep out of it once things really begin to break. 
Can’t you give us definite answer?” But Reed steadily refused. 
He was tempted, of course, but there was the question of his 
health, the question of leaving Louise Bryant, and especially the 
question of the kind of reporting that would be demanded of 
him. He strongly suspected that he would be required to glorify 
the American soldier in Mexico, and that he c6uld not do. 

None of the newspaper executives could understand why he 
refused to go to either Europe or Mexico. His reputation was at 
its height. The Metropolitan Bulletin, a little paper sent to adver- 
tisers, published an article called “Insurgent Reed,” describing his 
independence and courage, and calling him the best descriptive 



writer in the world. The publication of The War in Eastern Eu- 
rope, though the book had a small sale, brought excellent re- 
views, not only in the liberal and radical weeklies but also in the 
daily press. Most of the reviewers, including John Dos Passes, 
who reviewed it for the Harvard Monthly, spoke of the pic- 
turesqueness of the book, its unpretentiousness, and its humor. A 
few, notably Floyd Dell in the Masses, saw in it more than color- 
ful reporting; they found an understanding of human beings that 
had significance for the student of international affairs. All 
agreed that John Reed was as able a war-correspondent as could 
be found in America. 

And John Reed, instead of going off to see General Pershing 
catch Pancho ViUa, stayed in Provincetown. Hippolyte Havel, 
anarchist and poet, arrived and insisted on doing the cooking. 
Mary Heaton Vorse was living not far away. George Cram 
Cook and Susan Glaspell, Hutchins Hapgood and Neith Boyce, 
WiUiam and Marguerite Zorach, Eugene O’Neill, Dion Nord- 
feldt, David Carb, Robert Rogers, Marsden Hartley were there. 
It was an extraordinarily pleasant life for John Reed and Louise 
Bryant, and they felt that any one would be insane who left 
Provincetown to go and report a war. Even the war in Europe 
seemed at times less important than the horror of the natives at 
nude bathing or the feud that developed when Reed, piqued at 
being called a parlor Socialist, described Hippolyte Havel as a 
kitchen anarchist. 

The Cooks and some of their friends, had, the summer before, 
produced two groups of one-act plays, and they were eager to 
attempt further experiments. Reed’s persistent interest in the 
theatre flared into enthusiasm. Soon he was devoting as much 
time to the Provincetown Players as he was to his own writing. 
They took a shed at the end of a fehing wharf, cleaned it out, 
and bmlt a stage. Two days before the date of the first per- 
formance the theatre caught fire, and for a time its complete de- 
struction seemed certain, but the building was saved, though the 
walls were charred and a new curtain had to be purchased. The 
first bill consisted of Neith Boyce’s “Winter Nights,” “Sup- 
pressed Desires,” by Cook and Glaspell, which had been given 
the precedii^ summer, and Reed’s “Freedom.” The theatre was 


filled, and Cook immediately started securing subscriptions for 
a summer season. 

“Freedom,” which had been rejected by the Washington 
Square Players, was a good-humored satire of romanticism. It is 
a story of four prisoners, Poet, Romancer, Smith, and Trusty. 
After years of plotting and working, the Poet and the Romancer 
are at last ready to escape. At first they persuade the Trusty to 
join them, but, deciding that he has a place in prison and would 
have none outside, he chooses to stay. Then the Poet remembers 
that he has won his reputation as a prison-poet, and says, “For 
God’s sake, how can I write about freedom when I’m free?” Ro- 
mancer and Smith persist, but when Romancer discovers that 
the room has no bars and is on the ground floor, he declares that 
no Tnan of honor would escape imder such conditions. Smith 
says, “Well, the difference between you sapheads and me is that 
I want to get out and you just think you do. You’re playing a 
little game where the rules are more important than who wins. 
I’m willing to grant that you have it on me as far as honor, and 
patriotism, and reputation go, but all I want is freedom.” The 
others make so much noise in denouncing him as a coward and a 
traitor that the guards come. Romancer, Poet, and Trusty umte 
in attacking Smith for attempting to escape and say that they 
tried to stop him. Smith has the last line: “There’s not a word of 
truth in it! I was trying to break into a padded cell so I could be 

Except in so far as it served to mark the distinction between 
Reed’s own kind of romanticism and the romantic poses of the 
pseudo-revolutionaries, the play was unimportant, though pos- 
sibly it had as much significance as the others on the same bill- 
The only major dramatic talent, of comrse, that emerged that 
summer at Provincetown was Eugene O’Neill’s. “Botmd East 
for Cardiff” was produced on the second bill, with Reed in the 
cast, and a little later Louise Bryant appeared in “Thirst.” From 
the time he left Princeton, which he had entered in the fall 
that Reed came to Harvard, O’Neill had led a life that Reed en- 
vied, He had been a sailor, a prospector, a salesman in South 
America, an actor, and a reporter. He was more cynical than 
Reed, and would sneer at the workers for faflmg to revolt. 



whereas Reed would cheer them on, but they could join in com- 
mon abuse of the existing order. And Reed, despite O’Neill’s 
cynicism, found him curiously shy, and, in a way, innocent. In 
the simple matter of protecting his own interests, O’Neill seemed 
quite incompetent, and Reed, who, for all his romanticism, knew 
how to deal with editors and managers, was eager to look out for 

Reed acted in several plays in the course of the summer, in- 
cluding “The Game,” a morality play written by Louise Bryant 
and staged by the Zorachs, who provided an abstract setting and 
introduced a stylized type of acting. He also wrote a one-act 
play, “The Eternal Quadrangle” in which he and Louise Bryant 
and George Cram Cook took the leading parts. It was another 
Shavian farce, a burlesque of the “triangle” plays of Broadway 
with incidental comments on love and the institution of mar- 
riage. It was written in haste, to fit the needs of the Players, and 
Reed did not seek either to publish it or to have it produced a 
second time. 

The conviction grew in Reed that the Provincetown Players 
had importance for the theatre, and he was insistent, in the face 
of skepticism, that the experiment should be continued in New 
York. On September 5, a meeting was called, with Rogers in the 
chair, and Reed, Cook, and a few other enthusiasts won a ma- 
jority of the members to their side. The next day a constitution 
was presented and adopted, and plans were made for the first 
performances in the city. 

Reed and Louise Bryant fingered on in Provincetown until 
the end of September. He was now negotiating with the editors 
of the Metropolitan with regard to a trip to China. Eager to have 
Reed in any land where there would be colorful scenes for him 
to describe, Whigham and Hovey approved the suggestion. But 
there was the question of his health. He was feeling stronger 
after his summer by the ocean, but he realized that the infection 
of his kidney was not cured. While he tried to make up his mind 
about an operation, he stayed in Provincetown and wrote. 

For the most part, the work of the summer went into pot- 
boilers. His creative enei^ies were absorbed by the Province- 
town Players, and for tiie rest he sought only to make money. 



His own needs, the demands of his family, doctors’ bills, and the 
prospect of an expensive operation made him keep close watch on 
his income. He wrote a short serial for Collier’’ s called “Dyna- 
mite,” a purely melodramatic story of financiers, crooks, anar- 
chists, a brave hero, a beautiful heroine, and a sweet romance. 
“And they ah. lived happily ever after,” he concluded the story, 
lest any one should fail to realize that his tongue was in his cheek. 

For the Metropolitan he revised “The Last Clinch,” a story 
about a southern gentleman in New York that he had first writ- 
ten three years earlier, and laboriously created a humorous tale, 
“The Buccaneer’s Grandson,” in the heavily facetious manner he 
had attempted during his first year in New York. “The Bucca- 
neer’s Grandson” introduced Grampus Bill, making much of his 
misuse of the English language, his tendency to exaggeration, and 
his trick, modeled after Mr. Dooley’s, of sententiousness. Carl 
Hovey liked the character and urged Reed to try another story, 
but “The Weaker Sect,” in which Bill turned from privateering 
to caring for seals in a circus, did not appeal to Mr. Hovey, and 
no other magazine would take it. Later Reed tried to write a 
third Grampus Bill story, “The Wages of Neutrality,” but he 
never finished it. 

Facetiousness or melodrama, those seemed to be the alterna- 
tives, and Reed was not very adroit at achieving commercially 
useful products of either type. “The Edge of Asia,” a story of 
an innocent American in Russia who falls in love with a notori- 
ous courtesan and is saved from destruction by a wily diplomat, 
was as melodramatic as “Dynamite,” but it f^ed to find a pur- 
chaser. “Noblesse Oblige,” a revision of an early story of an old 
gambler in France, also fell short of publication. Deeply worried 
by the failure of all this work to boil the pot, Reed returned to 
New York, hoping that he would be well enough to go to China 
without an operation. Although he had looked forward to life 
in the United States, when he came back from the eastern front, 
and had hoped that he would be able to remain here until 
the war was over, the trip to China came to seem the only pos- 
sibility for continued work with the Metropolitan. 

He was able to secure one assignment in New York that pleased 
him. The Tribzme sent him down to Bayonne to report the strike 


in the Standard Oil plants, and he did an article for the Metro- 
politan as well. He described the strike as akin- to those in the 
Colorado coal fields, the Michigan copper mines, and the 
Youngstown steel works-a desperate, unorganized revolt of op- 
pressed workers. His gift for sharp portrayal returned now that 
he had a congenial theme, and he depicted the conditions of the 
immigrants, the Rockefeller domination of the city, the victimi- 
zation of the workers by the tradesmen, the law, and the church, 
the progress of the strike, and the use of violence by the police 
and the company’s thugs. It was the last article Reed wrote for 
the Metropolitan, and he showed once more that, when his sym- 
pathies were aroused, he had no superiors in journalism. The 
fact that his sympathies were always excited by the sufferings of 
workers meant that he was better as a labor-reporter than as a 
war-correspondent, but capitalist journalism had little place for 
labor-reporters like Reed, and the time was coming when there 
would be no place at all. 

As the presidential election drew near, Reed came to feel that 
the only thing that mattered was to keep the United States out 
of the war, and that the only hope of doing so was to re-elect 
Woodrow Wilson. In the summer he had joined Albert Jay 
Nock, Lincoln Steffens, Boardman Robinson, and others in ad- 
dressing a letter to Hughes, questioning him about his views on 
Mexico, neutrality, trusts, and the income tax. Now, together 
with Henrietta Rodman, Franklin Giddings, Carlton Hayes, and 
John Dewey, he signed an appeal to Socialists, asking them to 
vote for Wffson. “Every protest vote is a luxury dearly bought,” 
the statement read. “Its price is the risk of losing much social 
justice already gained and blocking much immediate progress.” 
He became a member of the group of writers that George Creel 
organized to support Wilson, a group that included Steffens, 
Fred Howe, Zona Gale, Hutchins Hapgood, George Cram Cook, 
and Susan GlaspeU. In a widely syndicated article, one of a series 
by members of the group, he wrote: “I am for Wilson because, 
in the most difficult situation any American president since Lin- 
coln has had to face, he has dared to stand for the rights of weak 
nations in refusing to invade Mexico; he has unflinchingly advo- 
cated the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means; 


he has opposed the doctrines of militarism and has warned the 
American people against sinister influences at work to plunge 
them into war; and in this dark day for liberalism in the United 
States, he has declared himself a hberal and proved it by the 
nomination of Louis D. Brandeis and John H. Clarke to the su- 
preme court, by forcing the enactment of the Clayton bill, the 
child labor bill, and the workmen’s compensation act, and by the 
labor planks in the St. Louis platform.” 

Reed went on to attack the Republicans, especially Roosevelt, 
“the arch-disciple of Professor Bemhardi, believer in war for 
its own sake, the leader of the munitions makers’ party, and a 
traitor to the people.” One may suppose that Reed supported 
Wilson chiefly in order to oppose the Republicans. Indeed, later, 
when he was a little ashamed of the position he had taken, he 
said, “I supported Wilson simply because Wall Street was 
against him.” It was ironical, of course, that, at the moment 
when Wilson was swiftly moving towards war, Reed should 
support him as a peace-maker, but he was only one of the mil- 
lions who were deceived and betrayed. The fact that Benson, 
the Socialist candidate, deserted his party six months later to 
support the war, may have made Reed feel less guilty for hav- 
ing aided Wilson. 

The Provincetown Players presented their first bill in New 
York, and Reed acted in “The Game,” but before their second 
bill, which included “Freedom,” was ready, he was making ar- 
rangements to enter Johns Hopkins hospital. He strongly sus- 
pected that an operation would be necessary, and he knew that 
there was at least a chance of its being fatsd. Therefore, before 
he left, he and Louise, who was now divorced from Dr. Trul- 
linger, went to Poughkeepsie and were married. They entered 
the city haU, and the clerk, sitting in his shirt sleeves, called in 
two witnesses from an adjoining office. When the appointed 
words had been mumbled, he handed the bride the marriage 
certificate. “Here, lady,” he said, “hang on to this; you may 
need it some day.” 

Reed entered Johns Hopkins on November 12, and for more 
than a week was given daily examinations, often extremely pain- 


ful. The rest of the time he worked on “The Wages of Neutral- 
ity” and tried to revise “Noblesse Obhge.” A classmate, Eric 
Parson, who had the room next to his, discovered that Reed was 
trying to earn money to pay for his operation, and offered a loan, 
which he refused. He had to be doing something, he explained, 
and he might as well be writing stories to pay his bills. Several of 
the doctors were also Harvard acquaintances, and one of them, 
Carl Binger, had at one time been a close friend. 

Reed and Louise Bryant wrote to each other daily, he describ- 
ing the progress of the examinations and his writing, she describ- 
ing the life in the Village and especially the activities of the 
Players. Other friends wrote often. “I’m awfully touched,” he 
wrote Louise Bryant, “by everybody’s affection in New York.” 
When it was finally decided to operate, Louise Bryant went 
down to Baltimore, accompanied by Walter Lippmann. She re- 
mained until after the operation had taken place. Dr. Young re- 
moved the left kidney on November 22. 

The hospital records called Reed’s recovery uneventful. For 
him, after the first few days, it was boring business lying in bed, 
with nothing to do between the painful dressings. After two 
weeks the wound had to be re-opened, but four days later he 
was sitting up, and he was discharged on December 13. During 
the last two weeks or ten days, he resumed his work on his 
stories, but he also found time to begin a series of poems. Three 
of them, grouped together as “Hospital Notes,” were written in 
free verse and showed more clearly the imagistic influence than 
anything he had previously written. The best was “Coming out 
of Ether”: 

Swish-swidi— flash by the spokes of the Wheel of Pain; 

Dizzily runs the whining rim. 

Way down in the cool dark is slow-evolving sleep. 

But I hang heavily writhir^ in hot chains 
High in the crimson stillness of my body, 

And the swish-swish of the spokes of the Wheel of Pain. 

He also wrote a pair of poems in blank verse called “Two 
Rooms.” One described the patient in Number do: 



The nurse was excited. ‘‘Who d’you think’s in 6 o? 
Bertram C. Pick, you know, the Ice Trust man. 

My, you just ought to see his overcoat— 

Real sable. And the Mayor sent some orchids. 

One of the girls went in to see if he wanted anything, 
And he just opened his eyes and swore at her. 

His night nurse is a friend of mine; Belle Stevens 
Her name is; she says he’s as democratic 
As if he didn’t have ten million dollars.” 

“Bright’s,” my doctor told me, looking serious. 

“Too much drink, strong cigars— er—no exercise, 

The cares and responsibilities of a great corporation. 

A big man, splendid advertising for the hospital— 

Not much hope— too bad— a loss to the country.” 
There were two world-known specialists in attendance— 
One cabled for across three thousand sea-miles— 

The house-physician and two jealous internes. 

They gave out hourly bulletins to the papers, 

And three reporters camped out in the waiting room 

Toward the end, as he twisted gasping on his bed 
In that quiet room, with his special nurses and orderlies 
And all that science can do, to ease his body. 

And orchids to ease his soul, and telegrams and cables 
From kings, presidents, parliaments, stock-exchanges— 

I wondered if his burning kidney reminded him 
Of that hot summer, when the fevered slums 
Spewed out dead babies, and he made his pile. 

In 53 there was a brick-layer, incurably ill, in agony, the bane 
of nurses and orderlies. The doctor said: 

“A most interesting case. 

An acute cystitis, long neglected. 

Infected bladder, ureters, kidneys— in fact 
The entire superpubic— you wouldn’t understand. 

Possibly a year’s rest in a warm climate 
Might have cleared up all the symptoms. 

Yes, now there’s nothing to be done 
But morphine injections to dull the pain. 



How long? O, consciousness will probably 
Persist six weeks-and by that time the sedative 
Will be powerless; and then two weeks’ coma. 

It is extraordinarily virulent. I’ve never seen 
Such rapid progress. Kill him? ha, ha. 

Well, no, really. It’s our duty, you know 
To preserve life as long as possible-and besides 
The last stages are particularly interestmg.” 

The nurse said, “Those kind of patients are a bother,” and the 
orderly asked him what the hell he thought he was. And when 
he died they were relieved— 

But all I could think of was death in 53 
Without love, or battle, or any glorious suddenness. 

Reed may have planned a series of poetic studies, for he in- 
scribed at the head of “Two Rooms” these lines from Leaves of 

And I will make a song for the ears of the President, ftill of weapons 
and menacing points, 

And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces. 

Reed had not turned to Whitman before, nor had he ever seri- 
ously tried to see what poetry could be made of the common ex- 
periences of common men. The poems were not brilliantly suc- 
cessful, but there were true images in them, images that grew 
out of Reed’s own way of seeing and feeling, and the poems 
seemed to belong, as even “Pygmalion” and “Love at Sea” had 
not, to the rest of Reed’s experiences. The month at Johns Hop- 
kins might have marked the commencement of poetic maturity, 
but the hospital poems were to remain isolated experiments. 
Three days after his discharge, he was at the Masses ball. The 
old life was beginning again, at a new tempo. 


Almost Thirty 

T he Metropolitan for January, 1917, announced Reed’s pro- 
posed trip to China: “He will hold up the mirror to this 
mysterious and romantic country, and we shall see its teem- 

ing millions and the big forces at work there. Imagine Reed in 
this rich ‘copy’ empire— the man of whom Rudyard Kipling said, 
‘His articles in the Metropolitan made me see Mexico.’ ” Reed 

and Louise Bryant, securing their passports and a stock of letters 
of introduction, made all their plans. 

On January 22, 1917, Wilson delivered his famous speech ad- 
vocating peace without victory. The next day Bethlehem Steel 
announced a two hundred percent stock dividend. A week later, 
Coimt Bemstoff informed the United States government that 

Germany was about to engage in virtually unrestricted subma- 
rine warfare, and on February 3 the President announced the 
severity of diplomatic relations. That week Hovey wrote Reed 
that under the circumstances it seemed unwise to spend money 
on articles about China. “Whigham and I,” he said, “think that 
we had best put off consideration of your trip to China until we 
can see more clearly ahead. Meanwhile, is there anything in con- 
nection with the new situation you can suggest that we could do 
in place of it?” 

There was nothing. The abandoning of the trip to China meant 
the end not only of one of Jack Reed’s romantic dreams but also 
of a very substantial reality, his profitable employment by the 
Metropolitan. Roosevelt’s policies had come more and more to 
dominate the magazine; Socialism was forgotten, and only prep- 
aration for war mattered. Whigham and Hovey had been, all 



things considered, uncommonly liberal, but they were responsi- 
ble for a business enterprise with a heavy investment and grow- 
ing profits, and there were limits to their tolerance. Art Young 
had been called from Washington and asked to talk over with 
them his monthly letter, and he knew that the end was near. 
Reed had been perfectly outspoken. He had said to Whigham, 
“You and I call ourselves friends, but we are not really friends 
because we don’t believe in the same things, and the time will 
come when we won’t speak to each other. You are going to see 
great things happen in this country pretty soon. It may kill me 
and it may loll you and all your friends, but it’s going to be 
great.” After that, Whigham and Hovey realized that, for aU his 
talents, John Reed was a liability to the Metropolitan unless a 
way could be found for him to utilize those talents in a comer 
of the world that presented no issues on which Metropolitan 
advertisers felt deeply. When they decided that they could not 
send him to romantic and remote China, they knew that he was 
no longer useful to the magazine. 

There was a brief interval before the actual break, but noth- 
ing that Reed wrote appeared in the Metropolitan. He did an 
article on Samuel Gompers, a discreet article, careful neither to 
discredit organized labor nor to offend the A.F. of L., but at the 
same time intended to expose the inadequacies of Gompers’ lead- 
ership. It was a painstaking piece of work, with a documented 
account of Gompers’ life and the growth of the Federation. In 
the sections that described Gompers’ speech to st riking garment 
workers and his conversation with Reed, it had some of the re- 
strained irony that made the Billy Sunday article so effective. 
But on the whole it was weak because Reed could only hint at 
his real criticisms of the reformist bureaucrat. Hovey and Whig- 
ham were right: John Reed was no longer a Metropolitan asset. 

He began a search for other employment. There were offers, 
lucrative ones, but he was made to realize that they were condi- 
tional on a promise to conform. Rejecting them, he went ahead 
with his own plans. A young anarchist, Konrad Bercovici, had 
done a series of sketches that Reed liked, and he wrote an intro- 
duction for them when they appeared in a book called The 
Crimes of Charity. He not only praised the vividness of the 


sketches; he endorsed Bercovici’s bitter attack on organized char- 
ity. “Every person of intelligence and humanity,” he wrote, 
“who has seen the workings of organized charity knows what a 
deadening and life-sapping thing it is, how unnecessarily cruel, 
how uncomprehending. Yet it must not be criticized, investi- 
gated, or attacked, {jike patriotism, charity is respectable— like 
the tariff, the open shop. Wall Street, and Trinity Church. 
White slavery recruits itself from charity, industry grows 
bloated vsdth it, landlords live off it; and it supports an army of 
officers, investigators, clerks, and collectors, whom it systemati- 
cally debauches ... Its object is to get efficient results— and that 
means, in practice, to just keep alive vast numbers of servile, 
broken-spirited people.” 

Reed pointed out, more sharply than Bercovici had done, that 
the crimes of charity were ultimately to be laid at the door of 
capitalism. He had begun to make an effort to understand Marx- 
ist theory, primarily because he wanted to understand why So- 
cialism had failed to prevent the war. As he read the works of 
Marx and Engels and examined the records of the Socialist 
parties in the various belligerent countries, it seemed clear to 
him that the workers had been betrayed by their leaders. He 
commenced an article called “The Collapse of the Second Inter- 
national,” in which he outlined the Marxist conception of the 
class struggle and analyzed the mistakes the Socialist function- 
aries had made. It was by no means an original piece of theory, 
and its somewhat romantic view of revolution showed the 
I.W.W. influence, but it was significant that Reed’s sympathy 
for the oppressed had led him to the kind of theorizing for 
which he had once had contempt. 

Reed was slowly realizing that a decision had been forced 
upon him. For four years he had taken the side of the workers 
in their struggle against exploitation, and he had become known 
as a radical; but radicalism had been only one of many interests. 
Now, in the months when the United States prepared for en- 
trance into the war, he understood that, if he was to be a radical 
at all, revolutionary change must be, if not his only interest, at 
least the center of his life. He told a friend that henceforth he 
would write nothing that did not express his hatred of capitalism. 



nothing that did not aid the cause of revolution. He was still a 
poet, but a poet whose immediate task was something else t han 
the writing of poetry. 

With the feeling that the era of his life out of which his poetry 
had grown was ending, he collected his verse in a small volume 
called Tambmlaine, pubhshed by his friend Frederick C. Bursch. 
He included twenty-six poems, aU but three of which had been 
written by the end of 1913. Even though he had written so Htde 
in the past three years, Reed had always been expecting that 
somehow he would return to the writing of poetry. Now, 
though he stUl thought of himself as a poet, he felt that a great 
deal would have to happen before poets could resume their 
normal functions. 

The pacifists had begun their frantic struggle to prevent the dec- 
laration of war, but Reed, though he took part in it, knew it 
came too late. Bemstoff had left, and the House had voted the 
largest naval appropriations bill in history. Though LaFoUette 
had killed the armed ship bill in the Senate, Wilson had pro- 
ceeded to arm merchantmen without Congressional authority. 
The pro-Ally partisanship that Reed had deplored was fast be- 
coming hysteria. More and more clergymen joined Newell 
Dwight Hillis, S. Parkes Cadman, and Henry Van Dyke in 
preaching a holy crusade against the Huns. College presidents 
vied with one another in the coining of epithets for the Kaiser. 
And the Hberals were hastening to get in line: the editors of the 
New Republic had decided that, in Floyd Dell’s phrase, “a war 
patronized by the New Republic could not but turn out to be a 
better war than any one had hoped.” 

Reed kept on fighting. “I know what war means,” he wrote in 
the Masses and the Call. “I have been with the armies of aU bellig- 
erents except one, and I have seen men die, and go mad, and 
lie in hospitals suffering hell; but there is a worse thing than that. 
War means an ugly mob-madness, crucifying the truth-tellers, 
choking the artists, side-tracking reforms, revolutions, and the 
working of social forces. Already in America those citizens who 
oppose the entrance of their country into the European melee 
aire called ‘traitors,’ and those who protest against the curtailing 


of our meager rights of free speech are spoken of as ‘dangerous 
lunatics.’ ” 

“Whose war is this?” he asked, and answered, “Not mine. I 
know that hundreds of thousands of American workingmen 
employed by our great financial ‘patriots’ are not paid a living 
wage. I have seen poor men sent to jail for long terms without 
triri, and even without any charge. Peaceful strikers, and their 
wives and children, have been shot to death, burned to death, by 
private detectives and militiamen. The rich have steadily become 
richer, and the cost of living higher, and the workers propor- 
tionally poorer. These toilers don’t want war— not even civil 
war. But the speculators, the employers, the plutocracy— they 
want it, just as they did in Germany and England; and with lies 
and sophistries they will whip up our blood until we are savage 
and then we’U fight and die for them.” 

Reed, like most radicals, took some consolation in the over- 
throw of theTsar, but he was not deceived into believing that a 
significant transfer of power had taken place. He described it as 
a revolution created by intellectuals, business men, and army of- 
ficers, for the purpose of better organizing Russian capitalism 
and more efEciently carrying on the war. For this reason it had 
the approval of the commercial interests of the Allied countries. 
He saw a possibility that it might open the way for a genuine 
revolution by the workers and peasants, but he scoffed at the idea 
that any particular importance could be attached to the abdica- 
tion of the Tsar and the consequent change in the form of gov- 

For the moment, Russia was less important than the last des- 
perate fight against participation in the war. Now that it had 
become certain that President Wilson would call for a declara- 
tion of war, the pacifists could scarcely believe that what they 
had dreaded was at hand. Thousands of them poured into Wash- 
ington as Congress opened, most of them frightened and con- 
fused, but still hoping. Reed joined them. LaFoUette gave him a 
pass to the Senate and John M. Nelson, who also was to vote 
against the war resolution, a pass to the House. 

But on the evening of April 2, when Wilson was addressing 
the joint session of Coi^ress, Reed was not present. He was at a 



meeting held under the auspices of the People’s Council, a meet- 
ing to which thousands of pacifists and rascals had come from 
all over the East. The more hberal members of the committee 
had asked him to speak, but he feared that, as a radical, he would 
be denied the chance. Grace Potter, who had helped with the 
Paterson pageant and had been his strongest supporter in his 
project for a workers’ theatre, offered a suggestion. With his 
approval, she assigned loyal friends to places throughout the hall 
and gave them their instructions. 

When, as the hour grew late and Reed had not yet been called 
on, he gave her a signal, she rose and waved her handkerchief. 
Instantly there were cries from all over the haH, “We want Jack 
Reed!” David Starr Jordan, who was presiding, rose and said, 
“We will come to Mr. Reed in due time.” Another speaker was 
introduced, and went on and on with meaningless phrases. Grace 
Potter again waved her handkerchief, and again the cries came 
for Jack Reed. “Mr. Reed will speak if there is time,” Dr. Jordan 

As the clamor continued, a man entered the back of the hall 
and walked rapidly to the platform. Every one was silent. The 
man reached the platform, and they all, knowing well what they 
were to hear, gasped as he briefly told them that the President 
had called for war. Dr. Jordan rose, saying in effect, ‘We were 
for peace, but we will follow our coimtry.” There were cries of 
“Jack Reed,” cries that were repeated throughout the audience. 
“There is no rime,” Jordan said. The cries grew more and more 
insistent. Reed rose, stepped forward, raised his hand, and said, 
“This is not my war, and I will not support it. This is not my 
war, and I will have nothing to do with it.” One man had refused 
to equivocate, and courage sprang up again in hundreds of 

Outside on the street, Reed bought an extra and read the elo- 
quent phrases of the President’s message: ‘We must put excited 
feeling away . . . We will not choose the path of submission and 
suffer the most sacred rights of our nation and our people to be 
ignored or violated. The wrongs against which we now array 
ourselves are not common wrongs: they cut to the very root of 
human life. . . . Our object ... is to vindicate the principles of 


peace and justice in the life of the world ... We have no quarrel 
with the German people ... A steadfast concert for peace can 
never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic na- 
tions . . . Only free peoples can hold their purpose and their 
honor steady to a common end and prefer the interests of man- 
kind to any narrow interest of their own . . . We are now about 
to accept gauge of battle with this natural foe to liberty and 
shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check 
and n ullif y its pretensions and its power ... If there be disloy- 
alty it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stem repression 
. . . The day has come when America is privileged to spend her 
blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and 
happiness and the peace she has treasured. God helping her, she 
can do no other.” 

Wilson’s high moral tone sickened Reed, and he fought to break 
through the fog of hypocrisy. He remained in Washington in 
order to testify at the House judiciary committee hearings on the 
espionage bill. He advanced, necessarily, the usual liberal argu- 
ments, re-enforced by his own observations in the belligerent 
countries. At the hearing on the conscription bill, however, 
which took place two days later, he definitely committed himself. 
After describing conscription as undemocratic, he set forth the 
case for persons like himself who, without religious scmples 
against war in general, opposed this particular war. “I am not a 
peace-at-any-price man,” he said, “or a thorough pacifist, but I 
would not serve in this war. You can shoot me if you want and 
try to draft me to fight— and I know that there are ten thousand 
other people—” 

Representative Greene of Vermont interrupted: “I do not 
think we need to hear this gentleman any further,” and Repre- 
sentative Kahn of California added, “That kind of a man is 
found in every country, but we should be thankful that the 
country does not depend on them.” But the chairman insisted 
that Reed shotild be heard, and he went on, reporting observa- 
tions in England, France, and Bulgaria. When he paused, Kahn 
ominously asked him for his address. 

Representative Shallenberger inquired why he would not 
%ht, and Reed said that his experiences on five fronts and in the 



capitals of most of the warring nations had convinced him that 
it was a commercial conflict. 

“I think,” said the chairman, “Mr. Shallenberger wanted you 
to state your personal reasons.” 

“I was trying to state them.” 

“It is not your personal objection to fighting?” Shallenberger 

“No,” said Reed, “I have no personal objection to fighting. I 
just think that the war is unjust on both sides, that Europe is 
mad, and that we should keep out of it.” 

What Reed did was less, perhaps, than many others were 
doing, but such consistency had, nonetheless, become a rare vir- 
tue. And as the anti-war forces dwindled away, he found it dif- 
ficult to keep from discouragement. It was easy enough to be 
personally brave, but it was difiicult to find any basis for hope. 
The action of the emergency national convention of the Social- 
ist Party in adopting a resolution against war helped a little to 
restore his faith in the party, but he was disgusted by the prompt 
desertion of such men as J. G. Phelps Stokes, AUan Benson, John 
Spargo, William English Walling, and Harry Slobodin. 

Of course his more respectable associates had already begun 
to shun him. He met a group of Harvard acquaintances in Wash- 
ington, and they were obviously uncertain whether to speak to 
him or not. Finally, with marked embarrassment, they shook his 
hand and went on with their talk about the war. “If I had the job 
of popularizing this war,” one of them said, “I would begin 
by sending three or four thousand American soldiers to certain 
death. That would wake the country up.” It re min ded Reed of 
the day, a few weeks earlier, when he had overheard a young 
Plattsburger discussing in the Harvard Club the sinking of an 
American ship. “I must confess,” the Plattsburger had drawled, 
“that my ardor was somewhat dampened when I read that one 
of the victims was a Negro.” 

Harry Reed had already volunteered. “I have done this,” ho 
wrote his brother, “because I consider it my duty, not because I 
want to be a soldier or fight. I wish you could see a little more 
clearly just what the situation is in tlm country and how useless 
it is to try to buck what can’t be changed.” Mrs. Reed wrote, “It 


gives me a shock to have your father’s son say that he cares noth- 
ing for his country and his flag. I do not want you to fight, 
heaven knows, for us, but I do not want you to fight against us, 
by word and pen, and I can’t helping saying that if you do, now 
that war is declared, I shall feel deeply ashamed. I tlnnk you will 
find that most of your friends and sympathizers are of foreign 
birth; very few are real Americans, comparatively.” 

John Reed could have endured all that if the workers had seen 
clearly how they were being sent to death for the profits of the 
men who all their lives had robbed them. The docility of most 
of the workers was distressing enough, but the violent patriotism 
of a good many brought him close to despair. He began a bit of 
passionate doggerel, never published, not even completed, prob- 
ably soon forgotten, but significant of a mood that recurred 
again and again through the spring and summer of 1917: 

Without that ye lifted a hand, without that ye uttered a cry, 

While ye stood there stupidly wondering, as the ox stands to die, 
All ye had won in a thousand years the Masters took again. 

And drove your sons to be butchered and butcher the German men. 

When they flaunted a painted cloth, red as the thongs of their 

White as your women’s faces, blue as your children’s lips. 

Then ye must kneel and uncover, or walk stem ways alone. 

So ye kissed the flag of the Masters, for ye had no flag of your own. 

When they blatted a foolish jingle, set to a banal air 
Then must ye stand and uncover, as if God walked there. 

So under the eye of the Masters ye joined the chorusing 
Though your throats ached with the lawless songs ye knew not 
how to sing. 

When they took in their l5ring mouths the name of your dear desire. 
And Liberty over your bloody backs hised like a scourging fire. 
Chained to the cannon-found^. ... ' 

But he did not stop fighting. The Socialist Call printed his 
open letter to the members of Congress, attacking conscription 
% essentially the same words he had used before the committee 


on military affairs. He signed the call for an American Confer- 
ence for Democracy and Terms of Peace. And he wrote more 
and more for the Masses: an article in praise of LaFoUette’s fight 
against the armed ship bill, a discussion of the progress of the 
Russian revolution, an attack on Charles Edward Russell. In a 
note c^ed “Flattering Germany,” he wrote, “If it is continually 
flung in our faces that any man who speaks for freedom and 
justice is therefore pro-German, perhaps we’ll come to believe 
it after a while.” And in “The Great Illusion” he said, “It is the 
power of money that rules all countries, and has for many 
years. It is a cold economic force that fanned the fires which 
burst out in this war. The issue is clear, with these forces there 
is no alliance, for peace or war. Against them and their projects 
is the only place for liberals.” 

When the inevitable break came with the Metropolitan, Reed 
looked about for work. It was out of the question to thinlr of 
free-lancing, for one by one the magazines had been closed to 
him. At last Dr. Rumely, the editor of the New York Mail, 
hired him as feature writer, and on May 16 Reed began domg a 
daily signed story. The Mail was financed by money from the 
German government, but it is doubtful if Dr. Rumely knew this, 
and certainly Reed did not. All he knew was that the paper was 
not convinced of the total righteousness of Great Britain and 
was AviUing to resist some of the more absurd forms of war 
hysteria. He liked some of his associates, inclu ding Dr. Rumely, 
Ed Clapp, the chief editorial writer, and Sigmund Spaeth, who 
was covering music and tennis. The pay was a good ded less 
than Reed had been used to, but at least he was not obliged to 
write what he did not believe, and occasionally he could even 
say what he thought. 

Early in June, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman held 
a meeting against conscription at Hunt’s Point Palace in the 
Bronx. Heed attended, ostensibly as a reporter, but actually to 
try to protect the speakers. He had been informed that two 
hundred soldiers and sailors were going to break up the meeting, 
and earlier in the day he went to the secretary of the commis- 
aoner of police and to the deputy commissioner and asked for 


poKce protection. The former said there would be no protec- 
tion unless trouble started; the latter promised to do what he 
could. When the meeting opened, the soldiers began to throw 
electric light globes, and a captain of police, whom Reed ap- 
proached, refused to stop them. Reed resumed his place in the 
press box just as a young friend of his began to speak. Looking 
at the back of the hall, he saw a mob of soldiers running towards 
the platform. He leaped onto the stage, seized the speaker by 
the arm, and, holding off the soldiers, led him away. Outside, 
soldiers and workers were fighting, and the police were using 
dazzling spotlights to break up the crowd. Reed guided his friend 
through the tumult, got him into a car, and drove him through 
the.park into safety. 

As a result of their participation in the meeting, Emma Gold- 
man and Alexander Berkman were arrested and charged with 
having obstructed the draft. At a conference, attended by Frank 
Harris, Max Eastman, John Reed, and others, they said that 
they proposed to ignore the prosecution and not attempt to de- 
fend themselves. Harris approved, but Reed turged them to fight 
every step of the way, and they finally agreed. He testified as a 
character witness for Emma Goldman, and stated that he had 
never heard Berkman advise men not to register. 

He went to another anti-conscription meeting with Waldo 
Frank. When the police charged, the crowd drew back. Reed 
was angry. “If people would only find out that clubs don’t hurt 
so much!” he said to Frank. That was what primarily disturbed 
him, the timidity of the masses, their failure to see how little 
they had to lose, how much to gain. He was willing to fight, but 
he could have fought more cheerfully if he could have seen some 
sign of cooperation from the men who should have been at his 

Underneath the courage that his friends found so hearte ning in 
tfiose days, underneath the gayety that made him a good com- 
panion, Reed was more depressed than he had ever been in his 
life. Since the bright September day, almost three years earlier, 
when he had entered wartime Paris, it had seemed to him that a 
decent, fruitful life could be hved only at odd moments and by 
the manifestation of the highest courage. Now, with hysteria 



triumphant in America, such a life was completely impossible. 
AH one could do was to hang on and endure, and be ready for 
the opportunity, if it ever came, to build a new world on the 
mins of the old. 

To add to his distress, he and Louise Bryant had had their first 
serious quarrel of the eighteen months they had lived together. 
Whatever the cause, they had separated, and she had sailed, early 
in June, for France. He wrote her almost daily, insisting on his 
love, pleading with her to join him in the attempt to find a sound 
basis for their life together. “In this last awful business,” he told 
her, “you were humanly right and I was wrong. I have always 
loved you ever since I first met you, and I guess I always will. 
That is more than I’ve ever felt for any one else.” Later he 
wrote: “I realize how disappointed and cruelly disillusioned you 
have been. You thought you were getting a hero— and you only 
got a vicious little person who is fast losing any spark he may 
have had.” And just before she returned, he assured her, “I am 
aU to blame. I think I’m cured now— anyway I know that there 
is nothing I would do to hurt you, meaning to.” 

Through all his letters ran a frank admission of unhappiness 
that he would have made to no one else. “I’m awfully lonely and 
sort of depressed all the time,” he wrote her late in June. “There 
is no thing much for me in this newspaper work I’m afraid. I 
don’t feel like doing much of anything. Sometimes I feel ener- 
getic and interested; other times it doesn’t seem worth while.” A 
week later he said, “It gets more and more depressing here.” The 
next day he wrote, “I am awfully tired a good deal of the time, 
lonely, and without much ambition or much incentive. I feel 
pretty dull and old. I don’t know why all this is.” Sometimes he 
tried to defend himself: “No one I love,” he explained, “has ever 
been able to let me express myself fully, freely, and trust that 
expression. You’ve got to recognize that I am defective (if that 
is it) or at any rate different, and you must accept a difference 
in my feehngs and thoughts.” But his usual mood was one of 
self-condemnation: “I have discovered, with a shock, how far I 
have fallen from the ardent young poet who wrote about Mex- 
ico.” He added, “Please God, I intend to get back to poetry and 
sweetness, some way.” 



The Mail divided his time between New York and Washing- 
ton. From New York he wrote Louise Bryant of seeing Dreiser 
and Djuna Barnes at the Brevoort, of having dinner with Floyd 
Dell, of his room on Fourteenth Street, of Emma Goldman’s 
trial, of meeting Harry Kemp and Bobby Rogers, of unhappy 
weekends at Croton. His letters from Washington described it 
as “the most exciting city in the world” and one of the most 
horrible. His respectable friends still hoped he would surrender. 
George Creel offered him a job in the censorship department, 
which he promptly refused, and Arthur Brisbane spoke of a 
position on the Washington Times. Steffens came back from 
Russia to teU President Wilson that Kerensky, despite his good 
intentions, was unable to prosecute the war. He talked to Reed 
about the break with Louise Bryant. “I said,” Reed wrote her, 
“that Fd been a fool and a cad, and he just told me most people 
were at some time, in some way.” That was consoling, but Reed 
felt, nevertheless, that he and Steffens no longer understood 
each other. 

Despite his conviction that he was not suited for regular re- 
porting, he did more than adequate work for the Mail. Part of 
the paper’s policy was to work for an equitable taxation pro- 
gram, and much that Reed wrote was propaganda for an excess 
profits tax. It was perhaps not a distinguished service to the cause 
of justice, but at least the articles were honest, and occasionally 
he had a chance to express a forthright opinion. “No group or 
class of Americans,” he wrote in the first article of the series, 
“should be permitted to have a vested interest in war, nor should 
they be permitted at the expense of the people to amass enor- 
mous sums of money out of the slaughter of mankind.” Other 
articles described the vast profits of the rich and the li ving con- 
ditions of the majority of the workers. From Washington he 
pointed out that the motto of the Senate was, “Make the poor 
and the future pay for the war.” He interviewed business men, 
a dozen Senators, a score of Representatives, even the President 
himself. The minor details of the job irked him, and once he 
made the mistake of listing as a committee-member a Congress- 
man who had been dead six months, but he was able to work 
up considerable enthusiasm for the campaign, merely because 


it permitted him to attack, however indirectly, the forces that 
had made the war. 

Reed was often successful in making the Mail serve his pur- 
poses. He did a story on the conscientious objectors, interviewed 
Jim Larkin on the Irish situation, described the dangers of 
venereal disease in the army, and went on board a Russian war- 
ship that was being managed by a committee of sailors. His dis- 
patches from Washington described the lobbying profiteers, the 
madmen with inventions, and the idealists intoxicated with power. 
He wrote about the unsanitary conditions of one of the army 
cantonments. And he devoted two sardonic articles to a society 
benefit for the blind held in Macdougal Alley. “It was New 
York’s last real laugh,” he wrote, after describing the social 
splendor that had transformed the alley. “Within a few months 
now the casualty lists will be appearing, and in the rotogravure 
sections of the Sunday papers there will be pages of young, high- 
bred faces with the caption ‘The Roll of Honor.’ . . . Those pages 
and pages of yoimg faces, you understand, will be pictures of 
officers— not of the countless private soldiers whose obscure and 
voiceless people will have nothing to comfort them but the com- 
mon grief. . . . Our streets will slowly fill with pale figures in 
uniform, leaning on Red Cross nurses; with men who have arms 
off, hands off, faces shot away, men hobbling on crutches, pieces 
of men. Then New York vsnll not laugh any more. Europe has 
stopped laughing long ago . . . Yet last night I was struck with 
one thir^. That these rich and ever comfortable people are the 
only people in New York who can stiU laugh— even now, before 
battle, before loss, in time of peace. The poor who moved rest- 
lessly up and down on the fringe of the spectacle could no 
longer laugh, even though most of them were once Italians . . . 
Life was too exhausting, too harsh. I think that the most terrible 
calamities will never change the expression of these people . . . 
If I were Weir MitcheU or somebody like that I should paint a 
picture of flaunting wealth and extravagance, with the sub- 
merged and groaning masses of ma nkin d, driven to desperation, 
thriKting their bloody fists up through the concrete floor of 
Macdougal AUey. But alas, I cannot. There is no bloody fist. 
It is Belshazzar’s feast without the writing on the wall.” 


Of course he could not always do as he pleased. The Mail 
wanted human interest stories, and he supplied them— the elec- 
trocution of Dr. Waite, a whole series on the life of Benny 
Leonard, an account of a murder trial. Most of these assign- 
ments he disliked. He wrote Louise Bryant from Baltimore, 
“I’ve got to interview a damned actress about her damned mar- 
riage to a damned prizefighter.” But Reed had a way of finding 
some satisfaction even in Dr. Rumely’s eagerness for romantic 
color. He revived his old habit of tramping around the East 
Side, and wrote about it as “the city of dreadful night.” He 
talked with an evicted woman, helped a man find a midwife, 
played craps with a group of sweat-drenched men, and wan- 
dered about among the restless sleepers in Tompkins Square. At 
an Italian theatre he grew excited about the acting of Mimi 
Aguglia, “the Sicilian Duse.” He toured the dives of Hoboken. 
He talked with a deserter from the Roumaman army and with 
exiles who were planning to return to Russia. A murder trial 
gave him a chance to comment on the economic basis of crime; 
a visit to a subway excavation beneath Times Square made it 
possible to suggest once more the contrast between rich and 
poor; a plan to make sunken gardens in Central Park served as 
the occasion for satirical remarks about “fat ladies with jewels.” 
He even went to Saratoga for the races, and stopped off at Lily 
Dale to spend three mirthful days at the spiritualists’ convention. 

If he had been in a different mood, he would have enjoyed 
much of his work for the Mail, and as it was, he contrived to 
find some pleasure and to write some excellent pieces. But at the 
same time he was constantly harassed by the sense that he was 
compromising with his principles. At one moment he could see 
that he was accomplishing a little towards the re-establishment 
of sanity by his articles in the Mail, but at the next he felt, as he 
wrote Louise Bryant, that perhaps he “ought to raise heU and 
go to jail.” Even his trips to the East Side lost their savor when 
he caught sight of men in uniform. 

As usual he turned to the Masses for frank expression. In “The 
Myth of American Frankness” he wrote, “We are a rich, fat, 
lazy, soft people, we Americans. This charactization of us was 
invented by that prize exaggerator, Theodore Roosevelt, when 



he was press-agenting preparedness, and wanted to exp lain why 
the nations of the world would all invade the United States.” 
Wilson, he went on, had now borrowed the slogan, “as usual 
adopting Teddy’s idea three years late.” After giving figures to 
show that the rich had grown richer during the war and the poor 
poorer, Reed said, “We agree with Messrs. Root, Vanderlip, and 
Wood that the fat should be sweated, that the lazy should be 
forced to work. We even go so far as to venture an opinion that 
if those who could afford it should be forced to pay for this 
war, there would soon be peace. Meanwhile it is perfectly use- 
less, we suppose, to remind these gentlemen that there is a limit 
to human endurance, even among a people as long suffering as 
Americans.” He quoted “our anarchist contemporary,” the Wall 
Street Journal, “We are now at war, and militant pacifists are 
earnestly reminded that there is no shortage of hemp or lamp- 
posts,” and informed the gentlemen of Wall Street that, if they 
were not careful, they might find themselves on the wrong end 
of the rope. 

In briefer notes in the same issue, that for July, he commented 
on Gompers’ support of the war, listed some of the grosser at- 
tacks on freedom of speech, and ridiculed the plan of the so- 
caUed “first fifty” to help the war by reducing luncheons to 
three or four courses and dinners to five or six. He quoted 
Thomas Jefferson’s remark, “The tree of liberty must be re- 
freshed from time to time vrith the blood of patriots and tyrants. 
It is the natural manure,” and commented, “I submit that the 
tree of liberty being now very greatly in need of refreshments, 
there are a few ‘patriots’ about ripe for slaughter,” going on to 
list the profits of the coal trusts, the railroads, the munitions 
makers, and the manufacturers of flags. 

In the August issue, under the title “Militarism at Play,” he 
began, ‘We always used to say that certain things would hap- 
pen in this country if nulilarism came. Militarism has come. They 
are happening.” He described the systematic disruption of a 
meeting of the American Conference on Democracy and Terms 
of Peace. Hundreds of secret service men, some of them trying 
to disguise themselves as delegates, had been aided by soldiers 
and sailors sent to the meeting by their commanding officers. 


He also described the breaking up of Emma Goldman’s anti- 
conscription meeting, the raid on Socialist headquarters in the 
twenty-sixth assembly district, and the invasion of a meeting at 
Arlington Hall. “Just wait, boys,” he warned, “until the crowd 
finds that clubs and butts and even bayonets don’t hurt so much, 
and that there are too many heads to crack.” In the same issue 
there was an extract from the New York ^T^buns, a report of 
Dr. Frankwood E. Williams’ statement regarding the frequency 
of mental disease in the army. Over it Reed wrote a headline, 
“Knit a Strait-Jacket for Your Soldier Boy,” seven words that, 
in some strange way, were to seem more seditious to the district 
attorney than anything else he had written. 

It was inevitable, of course, that the Masses should be barred 
from the mails, along with fourteen other periodicals. “In 
America,” John Reed wrote in the September issue, “the month 
just passed has been the blackest month for freedom our genera- 
tion has known. With a sort of hideous apathy the country has 
acquiesced in a regime of judicial tyranny, bureaucratic sup- 
pression, and industrial barbarism, which followed inevitably the 
first fine careless rapture of militarism.” Describing the convic- 
tion of Emma. Goldman and Alexander Berkman, the attack of 
soldiers and sailors upon a Socialist parade in Boston, the driving 
of Arizona strikers into the desert, and the railroading of Tom 
Mooney, he pointed out that “law is merely the instrument of the 
most powerful interests and there are no constitutional safeguards 
worthy the powder to blow them to heU.” “Meanwhile,” he ob- 
served, “organized labor lies down and takes it— nay, in San Fran- 
cisco, connives at it. Gompers is so busy running the war that 
he has time for nothing except to appoint upon his committees 
labor’s bitterest enemies. I suppose that as soon as Tom Mooney 
and his wife are executed, Gompers will invite District Attorney 
Fickert to serve upon the Committee of Labor.” 

The two most ambitious articles that Reed wrote in the early 
months of the war appeared neither in the Mail nor in the 
Masses. One of them was never published; the other was printed 
in the Seven Arts. The first was an autobiographical essay called 
“Almost Thirty”; the second was “This Unpopular War,” an 



essay that said what Reed most deeply felt about the war and 
especially American participation. 

The Seven Arts, founded two years earlier by Waldo Frank, 
Van Wyck Brooks, and James Oppenheim, had sought to be, 
and with considerable success, the organ of the renaissance in 
American literature. Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, 
Amy Lowell, Maxwell Bodenheim, John Dos Bassos, Eugene 
O’Neill, Carl Sandburg, and Robert Frost were among its con- 
tributors. John Reed had submitted stories, but they had always 
been rejected. The Seven Arts was interested in originality, and 
Reed’s stories, like his poems, owed much to the literary man- 
ners of an earlier generation. 

It is significant that Reed’s first— and only— contribution to the 
Seven Arts was a political essay. The renaissance, if the brief 
upsurge of new talent deserves to be called by that name, was, 
as we have already seen, closely related to a strong, though 
usually undirected, desire for a more decent civilization. There 
was a single impulse behind the manifold experiments in art and 
literature and all the vague aspirations for social change. Reed 
was slow in recognizing the need for literary experimentation, 
and slow, once he had seen the need, in creating the forms that 
he could use. On the other hand, he responded much more 
sharply and wholeheartedly than most of his fellow-writers to 
the inhumanity of capitalist society. In no sense a theoretician, 
he merely felt deeply what he saw and acted upon his feelings. 
Despite his happy-go-lucky ways and his insatiable eagerness for 
aU kinds of experience, he was dragged along, step by step, by 
the strength and the soundness of his emotions. And the war 
had proven that he was right, that one could not simply go on 
writing poetry in so disorganized a world. The editors of the 
Seven Arts felt it, though their magazine had originally been 
almost purely literary, and they published Randolph Bourne’s 
“The War and the Intellectuals” and John Reed’s “This Un- 
popular War.” 

Reed found a satisfaction, his letters to Louise Bryant show, 
in writing the article that lifted for a time his persistent depres- 
sion. It said little that he had not said before, but it impressively 
brought together the observations he had made and expressed 


the emotions that had been roused in him in the trenches, be- 
hind the lines, and in the cities of the warring nations. Every- 
where he had been convinced that the masses of people did not 
want to fight; even in war-mad America he saw signs of an 
opposition that dared not express itself. How the people had 
been led to battle against their own common-sense judgments, 
why they had let themselves be betrayed, he could not explain. 
He only knew that, if they had been left to themselves, there 
would have been no war, and that even at the moment, after 
three years of adroit pressure from schools, churches, news- 
papers, the masses, iE they could have their way, would end the 

Through all that Reed wrote on the war ran a feeling that it 
marked an en ding ; a beginning, too, but certainly, for him and 
for the world, an ending. That was why he sat down and tried 
to write a brief autobiography. “I am twenty-nine years old,” 
he wrote, “and I know that this is the end of a part of my life, 
the end of youth. Sometimes it seems to me the end of the 
world’s youth, too; certainly the great war has done something 
to us all. But it is also the beginning of a new phase of life; and 
the world we live in is so full of swift change and color and 
meaning that I can hardly keep from imagining the splendid and 
terrible possibilities of the time to come.” 

He looked at himself and what he had done, the way he had 
scattered him self in a hundred different directions in “the all- 
sufficient joy of mere living.” “I must find myself again,” he 
wrote. “Some men seem to get their direction early, to grow 
naturally and with httle change to the thing they are to be. I 
have no idea what I shall be or do one month from now. When- 
ever I have tried to become some one thing, I have failed; it is 
only by drifting with the wind that I have found myself, and 
plunged joyously into a new role. I have discovered that I am 
only happy when I am working hard at somethmg I like. I never 
stuck long at anything I didn’t like, and now I couldn’t if I 
wanted to; on the other hand there are very few things I don’t 
get some fun out of, if only the novelty of the experience. I love 
people, except the weU-fed smug, and am interested in aU the 
new things and all the beautiful old things they do, I love beauty 


and chance and change, but less now in the external world and 
more in my mind. I suppose I’ll always be a romanticist.” 

He looked back on life in Portland, the splendor of the 
Greens, the joy of reading, the boredom of schools, the unhap- 
piness of a shy, sickly boy among his robust and cruel fellows, 
and the glamorous figure of his fighting father. He recalled Mor- 
ristown and self-discovery. Harvard and its defeats, still bitter 
in memory, and its triumphs, still pleasant to savor. He paid 
tribute to Copeland and Steffens. He wrote of the enchanted 
city and its romantic life, of Paterson and the excitement of the 
pageant, of Mexico and companionship in danger. 

He said little of the three years immediately preceding the 
writing of the essay, but he summarized what at the moment he 
felt about the two struggles that had occupied most of his atten- 
tion in those years, the war of the classes and the world war. “I 
have seen and reported many strikes,” he wrote, “most of them 
desperate struggles for the bare necessities of life; and all I have 
wimessed only confirms my first idea of the class struggle and 
its inevitability. I wish with all my heart that the proletariat 
would rise and take their rights— I don’t see how else they will 
get them. Political relief is so slow to come, and year by year the 
opportunities of peaceful protest and lawful action are curtailed. 
But I am not sure that the working class is capable of revolu- 
tion, peaceful or otherwise; the workers are so divided and so 
bitterly hostile to each other, so badly led, so blind to their class 
interest. The war has been a terrible shatterer of faith in eco- 
nomic and political idealism. And yet I cannot give up the idea 
that out of democracy will be bom the new world— richer, 
braver, freer, more beautiful. As for me, I don’t know what I 
can do to help— I don’t know yet. All I know is that my happi- 
ness is built on the misery of other people, that I eat because 
others go hungry, that I am clothed when other people go 
almost naked through the frozen cities in winter; and that fact 
poisons me, disturbs my serenity, makes me write propaganda 
when I would rather play.” Of the war he could only say, “It 
is just a stoppage of the life and ferment of human evolution. I 
am waiting, waiting for it all to end, for life to resume, so I can 
find my work.” 


Once more John Reed faced an apparently hopeless barrier. 
It was the situation of the fall of 1913, intensified by the war. 
Now there was the question not only of what he wanted to do 
but also of what he could do. His position on the Adail was by 
no means secure. It was doubtful if another magazine or news- 
paper would employ him— without guarantees that he was un- 
willing to give. He might at any moment be imprisoned for what 
he had written. And yet he looked toward the future not merely 
with courage but with anticipation. Moments of gloom did not 
endure. He was ready for whatever might come. 


Passage to Russia 

I F Reed had no idea what he would be doing a month hence, 
he knew well enough what he would like to do. Within two 
months after the abdication of the Tsar, he had begxm to 
change his opinion of the Russian revolution. “We make our 
apologies,” he wrote in the Masses, “to the Russian proletariat 
for speaking of this as a ‘bourgeois revolution.’ It was only the 
‘front’ we saw, the wished-for consummation of Kapitaltum. 
The real thing was the long-thwarted rise of the Russian masses, 
as now we see with increasing plainness; and the purpose of it 
is the establishment of a new human society upon the earth.” 
Something new had appeared in Russia, the Soviet of Workers’ 
and Soldiers’ Deputies, and Reed felt with the certainty of a 
good journalist that here was the decisive factor in the country’s 
future. He wanted to go to Russia. 

Louise Bryant, returning from France with news of the kin- 
dling of revolt in half a dozen countries, was eager to go to 
Russia with him. Personal difficulties forgotten, they hastened, 
in the first fortmght of August, to find the means for the trip. A 
press syndicate was willing to make Louise Bryant its corre- 
spondent, but the whole newspaper world was afraid of Reed. 
He battered at editors in New York, Baltimore, and Washing- 
ton, but without success. Eastman was eager to have him repre- 
sent the Masses, but the Masses could not pay his expenses. 
Finally, friends of the magazine, notably Eugen Boissevain, 
raised the money. Less than a year before, Reed could have gone 
almost anywhere in the world for almost any paper in the coun- 
try and been paid almost any sum he wanted to name; now he 



was going to Russia, to do the best reporting of his life, for the 
Masses and the Call, with the Seven Arts thrown in for kudos. 

Before he could leave the country, the question of mUitary 
service had to be settled. Although he had been told that the 
removal of his kidney was almost certainly sufficient cause for 
exemption from the draft, he had hesitated to take advantage of 
such an accident. Now, confident that he would be more useful 
in Russia than in Leavenworth, he appeared before the Croton 
draft board. He was apparently in good physical condition, and 
the examiner refused to exempt him until a telegram was re- 
ceived from General Crowder, ruling that nephrectomy was 

Reed was exempted from mifitary service on August 14. On 
the same day he and Louise Bryant apphed for their passports, 
and three days later they sailed on the Danish steamer. United 
States. In applying for his passport, Reed stated that he wished 
to visit Sweden and Russia as a correspondent. The authorities, 
who had been instructed not to permit any one to attend the 
conference that the Socialists were trying to hold in Stockholm, 
immediately questioned his apphcation, and it seemed likely that 
he would be delayed and perhaps prevented from going at all. 
Once more influential friends came to his aid, and, by taking an 
oath not to represent the Socialist Party at the conference, which 
he had neither intention nor right to do, he satisfied the State 

The ship was held for a week at Halifax while English author- 
ities searched it for contraband and examined its passengers. 
“The world has grown used to British domination of the seas,” 
Reed wrote, “and it is considered perfectly natural that we 
should sail first to Halifax, and stay there as long as London 
wishes, without any explanation.” A party of marines came to 
search Reed’s cabin. He had concealed his letters to Socialists in 
Stockholm under the carpet, but, to make perfectly sure, he 
gave the men whiskey and talked with them. Wis hin g him a 
good trip, they left without even the pretense of an examination. 

During the long delay he became acquainted with his fellow- 
passengers. There were Scandinavians, Russians, and a handful 
of American college boys going over to be clerks in an Ameri- 



can bank in Petrograd. There was a Hughes Republican, bom in 
Venezuela of Dutch parents, who was by far the most patriotic 
American on board. One passenger had been in Petrograd all 
through the February revolution, but he had seen nothing except 
shouting crowds. Another was a Russian diplomat, who was re- 
turning to serve the new government, whatever it might be by 
the time he got back. Every one was suspicious of every one 
else, and rumor peopled the ships with German spies, delegates 
to the Stockholm conference, and Russian revolutionaries. 

In the steerage there were Russian Jews from New York. 
They arrived in Halifax by train, and came on the boat, with 
trunks and bundles that held aU they owned, looking like a 
picnic excursion from Henry Street. At night they gathered on 
the third-class deck and sang. One of them would wave his arms, 
and they would begin the old songs of the harvest and of labor, 
great, surging, hymnlike songs with up-sweeping, strong chords 
that lifted Reed’s heart. “At once,” he wrote, “they ceased to be 
Jews, to be persecuted, petty, and ugly— that grand music trans- 
formed them, made them grow and broaden, until they seemed 
great, gentle, bearded moujiks, standing side by side with those 
who overthrew an empire— and p erh a p s a world.” 

As the ship finally drew away from Halifax and British scru- 
tiny, suspicion dwindled, and a kind of fellowship grew. Beyond 
the NevHoundland Banks, they left the steamer lanes and began 
to climb towards the Arctic Circle, sweeping north by east un- 
til at last, one blue morning, they caught sight of an Iceland 
glacier. By that time they were friends. The captain posted a 
notice: “As this ship belongs to a neutral nation, the passengers 
are requested, on receipt of war news, to avoid all public mani- 
festations of political sympathies or antipathies.” It was unneces- 
sary: with the exception of the captain himself, who was strongly 
pro-AUy, and the ardent Dutch-American, every one was weary 
of the war. 

It was pleasant to feel oneself even to so small an extent out 
of the war. The ship’s band played all day. There was marvelous 
Danish food: great quantities of meat with rich sauces, raw fish 
and sausages, beautiful pastry, and aU kinds of beer and wine. 
There were dances. People dressed for dinner, and not a single 


military uniform was visible. Late one night, Reed decided to 
give a party for the half-dozen women on board, and went the 
rounds of the staterooms, informing the occupants that only 
wives were desired. 

Whenever discussion turned to the war, the longing for peace 
became apparent. The young college boys, pledged to return if 
they were drafted, frankly admitted their hope that they would 
not have to serve. Two drummers, bound for Russia with no 
knowledge of the people, customs, or language, boasted a little 
about what American troops would do to the Germans, but they 
confessed that they had voted for Wilson because he had kept 
us out of war. 

The Russians in the steerage were for the most part political 
exiles, returning at the expense of the provisional government. 
Reed listened to their stories. This man had participated in the 
killing of the chief of poUce of Dvinsk, had been arrested, had 
been sentenced, had seen his companions die, and had escaped. 
This couple had been unjustly accused of belonging to a revolu- 
tionary society and sent, without trial, to northeastern Siberia, 
beyond Irkutsk, thirty-five days from the railroad, to be re- 
leased by the revolution of 1905. There was a sailor who had 
been on the Potemkin when it revolted in the Black Sea. There 
were two delegates from foreign-speaking Socialist groups to the 
Stockholm conference. One man was viewed with awe because 
he was rumored to have a letter from Kerensky. 

The most amusing passenger was the opportunist diplomat, a 
large, sleek, quiet man, who maliciously baited the two drummers. 
He told them first that it was necessary to be a Socialist to sur- 
vive in Russia. It would be all right, he pointed out, to say one 
was a Socialist, even if one were not, but of course one would 
have to be able to give evidence; and they went scampering off 
to the steerage to take lessons from the exiles. When they re- 
turned, armed with revolutionary phrases, the Russian proved to 
them, with quotations from Marx, that the revolution could not 
possibly take place in Russia. To add to their confusion, he main- 
tained that officers of the army, who had taken an oath to the 
Tsar, should defend him even if they were sympathetic to the 
revolution. “I will tell you the story of my wife’s brother,” he 



said, “he was a guard officer on duty at Tsarkoe Syelo when the 
revolution broke out. Now he was also a revolutionist, secretly; 
yet when the mob came to the palace to capture the Tsar, he 
confronted them with drawn sword, and would not let them 
pass. ‘I am a revolutionist’, he said, ‘but also I have given my 
oath to serve and protect the Tsar. You must loll me to pass, and 
I will fight. Long live the revolution.’ And so he died there, at 
his post, honorably.” 

By the time the salesmen recovered, their tormentor was chal- 
lenging them to prove that the earth was rotmd, and they were 
having difficulty in doing so. Their bewilderment grew when 
he told one of them, a Christian Scientist, that the Russians re- 
garded Christian Science as the refuge of idiots, and the other 
that it was considered the only desirable form of religion. They 
insisted that Reed, who had been enjoying their discomfiture, go 
with them while they confronted the Russian with these con- 
flicting stories. The Russian calmly told them that he was a man 
of ideas, arguing for the sake of the argument. “Then you are 
not an officer?” asked the Russian who was secretly sympathetic 
to the Tsar. 

“Oh, no,” said the diplomat. 

“And what about your brother-in-law at Tsarkoe Syelo?” 
inquired one of the salesmen. 

“I have no brother-in-law,” he said. “In fact,” he added, “I 
have no wife.” He paused. “I believe in free love,” he went on. 
“Would you gentlemen like to discuss this iaterestiag subject?” 

Christiania, Reed found, was a brisk little city, new and rather 
ugly but pleasantly unpretentious. It reminded him of Sofia, 
both because it was so new and because the people seemed so 
friendly. Living expenses were high. A few speculators and ship- 
builders had grovra rich and could afford to pay the seventy-five 
dollars that, he discovered, was charged for a bottle of whiskey. 
But the peasants and fishermen were getting less than ever of 
the raw fish and black bread that was their usual fare. There was 
also a shortage of clothes, and Reed, noticing the frost in the 
air, wondered what the vsfinter would bring. 

The Reeds hurried on to Stockholm, a trip that before the 


war had taken only six hours but now took eighteen. Many of 
the returning Russian exiles from the ship were on the train, hop- 
ing that the Swedish government would allow them to remain 
for the Stockholm conference. Once more Reed was impressed 
with their spirit. They had risked their lives and suffered im- 
prisonment and exile for the revolutionary cause. Now, per- 
mitted to return to their own country, they were harassed by 
the oflEcials of every nation they passed through, and no one 
could tell what they might find when Russia was reached. Yet 
the news that the conference had been postponed, which met 
them on their arrival in Stockholm, troubled them more than 
their own plight. 

Reed went at once to see Camille Huysmans, secretary of the 
International Socialist Bureau. He noticed the thin, drawm face, 
the hig h forehead, the wispy mustache, and the quiet, watchful 
eyes. Huysmans did not want to talk, but to listen, and he asked 
some shrewd questions about the Socialist Party in America. He 
did give Reed a statement: “The committee is sitting in perma- 
nence. Yes, the conference is postponed— but it will be held— 
now we know that. When we first came here most of us were 
profoundly discouraged. We hadn’t any encouragement from 
any Socialist body in any belligerent country. We were laughed 
at. But then the Germans came, and then Henderson from Eng- 
land, and Thomas from France, and the Russians. And now, to 
the invitation to the second conference, issued by the Russian 
Council of Workmen and Soldiers, the Socialist and labor groups 
of the whole world have accepted. That is beyond our greatest 
dreams. Now only the governments prevent the Socialist parties 
from sending their appointed delegates here. At last things are 
clearing. Now it is at last the people who want peace, and the 
governments alone who want to continue the war.” 

Reed talked with other Socialist leaders: Panin, representative 
of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviet, Axelrod, representative of 
the Russian Social Democrats, Van Kol, Dutch Social Demo- 
cratic senator, and others. From Pania he learned the story of the 
rise of the Soviets. The more he heard, the surer he was of the 
importance of what was happening in Russia, and he rejoiced 
that he was going to see it with his own eyes. 



In the meantime he knocked about Stockholm. The city was 
crowded with people, many of them conspirators or spies. Not 
since he left El Paso had he seen so many secret agents. A young 
English journalist was said to be on a confidential mission for 
the French government. A German princess, supposedly ra rin g 
for her health, was doing business in smuggled diamonds. Polish, 
Finnish, Ukrainian, and Czech nationalists were holding their 
private conferences. Whenever Reed and Louise Bryant left 
their room, spies, they beheved, entered and ransacked their 
papers. Yet, with all this intrigue, the city was very gay. Operas 
and theatres and movie-houses were filled; crowds gathered in 
the restaurants and side-walk cafes; bands played and the uni- 
forms of twenty nations could be seen on promenade. 

The rich seemed very rich, but the workers had little share 
in Sweden’s war-prosperity. Unlike Norway and Denmark, the 
country had refused to surrender its commerce to England, and 
had continued to trade with Germany. As a result there was a 
shortage of certain articles. Regulations, so easy for the rich to 
evade, were rigidly enforced upon the poor, and they could not 
get enough sugar or bread. Their discontent had found expres- 
sion in a demonstration of thirty thousand workers a few months 
earlier and in the election of a menacing proportion of Socialists 
to the Riksdag. 

On September 7, Reed happened to be going down a dark, 
twisted little alley behind the palace when he noticed a crowd of 
workmen— big, blond men, with their arms tattooed and their 
shirts open at the throat. One of them stopped, gesticulated at 
Reed, and went through a pantomime to signify that he was 
thirsty. As Reed grirmed and produced a crown, some one no- 
ticed his red tie, and said, “Sozialista?” When he nodded, there 
was a babble of cries, and they produced their red membership 
books. Leading him down an even fouler alley, they took him 
up four flights of stairs to a dingy room with a little bar. Reed 
could not understand what they said, but he liked the revolu- 
tionary songs they sang as they drank the schnapps he paid for. 

On the eighth he cabled to the Call the statement of the com- 
mittee in charge of preparations for the Stockholm conference. 
Aimed directly at America, it explained that the United States 


was principally responsible for the refusal of the AUies to per- 
mit delegates to attend the conference. “We do not understand 
President Wilson’s course of action,” the statement read. “When, 
in the Senate in December, 1916, he addressed the peoples of the 
world, the Socialist and labor organizations of Europe supported 
him with all their strength. In all Wilson’s public utterances, it 
has been made perfectly plain that the main obstacle to Ameri- 
can peace with Germany is the German poUtical autocracy, and 
that America’s object in the war is to secure the democratization 
of the German government. The Stockholm conference is the 
best and, perhaps, the only opportunity for the representatives 
of the Entente peoples to make clear to the German masses the 
conditions upon which peace is possible. And yet President Wil- 
son refuses to allow the delegates of American Socialist and 
labor groups to come to Stockholm. The people of the world 
are sick of war, whatever policy their governments see fit to 
publicly adopt. In the invitation to the Stockholm conference 
and its acceptance by democratic political and economic ele- 
ments in all the belligerent countries is to be seen the first action 
of the international masses, growing conscious of their power, 
awakening to the colossal error of unending war, and deter- 
mined that government shill be of, by, and for the social 

Two days later Reed was on his way to Russia.‘News had come 
of the faU of Riga, and there was a rumor that the Russian fron- 
tier would be closed. Moreover, his task at Stockholm had been, 
so far as possible, accomplished. 

As they whirled north, Reed was reminded of the Pacific 
Northwest by the interminable forests of dark green fir and pine 
trees, the range on range of wooded hiUs, and the swift plung- 
ing rivers. There were a few stony fields with barley shocks, a 
few wooden houses and bams, a few flat-faced blond giants and 
squat, bowed women in kerchiefs. Occasionally he could see the 
lonely huts and kilns of the charcoal burners. At every station 
there were hunters with guns and dogs. The sun was bright, but 
there was a tang in the air. 

In a third-class carriage ahead rode the political exiles, mak- 



ing the last stage of their exhausting pilgrimage. In the car with 
Reed and Louise Bryant was an old Russian general, who had 
been with a technical mission in England. With him were an 
artillery captain and a cavalry lieutenant. A tall old man with 
a gray beard, frock coat, and wide-brimmed hat sat with his fat 
wife and child, his arms full of teddy bears and bundles of food, 
very emotional as he neared Russia. He was an old-fashioned 
anarchist, who had spent a busy exile of thirty-eight years found- 
ing radical libraries in London and Paris. There were also five 
or six happy-go-lucky Russian boys, just graduated from an 
English aviation training camp, and a ruddy beef-eater of a 
British general, with three adjutants and a servant to brush their 

At Haparanda the Swedish authorities searched the baggage 
for food, taking away the anarchist’s many bundles. Everybody 
was huddled upon a little boat, which moved slowly across the 
Baltic to Finland. As their baggage was again examined, the Rus- 
sian general cried out at the spectacle of a sentry smoking on 
duty. The soldiers had all tom ofi the brass buttons with the 
imperial coat of arms, and were wearing revolutionary insignia. 
The artillery captain approached the guards, asking that the 
general, whose name and rank he mentioned, should be exam- 
ined first. He was roughly told that he must wait his turn. 

Every one was discussing Konulov’s march on Petrograd. The 
most recent news was two days old. What had happened in those 
two days? The British were frankly hopeful. The exiles were 
alarmed. An American officer and the British consul warned the 
Reeds not to go on to Petrograd, hinting that the streets ran 
with blood. They were partictdarly disturbed at the thought of a 
woman’s entering Russia, and the consul told Reed he must not 
think of permitting Louise Bryant to go. “But she wants to,” 
Reed said. 

Soon they were rushing across flat Finland, with its thrifty 
fields, wide-spaced, substantial wooden houses, neat little towns, 
and Protestant spires. It was very much, he thought, like the 
Middle West, except for the flat, slant-eyed faces of the people. 
At every station there were revolutionary proclamations on the 
walls. From the soldiers came new rumors of Kornilov: he had 


taken Petrograd; he had been repulsed. The hopes of those in the 
car rose and fell. Reed was amazed at the sharpness of the class 
lines: the bourgeois invariably hoped for counter-revolution. 
“Things have gone too far,” they said; “business is ruined; we 
must have order.” 

The train roared on through the dark night and the beating 
rain, the engine belching showers of wood-fire sparks. There 
was plenty of food available at the stations, but it was expensive. 
Inspections were frequent, usually by soldiers with red arm- 
bands. The next day Reed noted that the temper of the crowds 
at the stations had changed. Peasants stared through the win- 
dows and muttered ominously. It was, he thought, like being an 
English traveler going from Boulogne to Paris in 1793, with the 
fierce hairy faces of the Jacobin mihtia thrust in at the coach 
window whenever there was a stop to change horses. No one 
in the car mentioned Kormlov’s name, and the ofiicers and mer- 
chants sat tense in their seats. At Viborg there was a story that 
a general who had tried to aid Kornilov had been drowned, with 
aU his staff, in the canal. But still there was no authoritative news 
of the fate of Petrograd. 

When at last Reed reached the city, he found, to his infinite 
relief, that Kornilov’s counter-revolution had failed. His first 
concern was to piece together the story. The Cossack general, ap- 
pomted supreme commander-in-chief by Kerensky, had planned, 
under the pretext of preserving the provisional government from 
attack from the left, to seize power. Having carefully plotted his 
moves, he demanded that power be placed in his hands. The 
leadership of the provisional government was as indecisive as 
usual, but the radicals, and especially the Bolsheviks, formed the 
Committee for Struggle with Counter-revolution. The workers 
and soldiers, determined not to surrender the gains that had been 
made, supported the committee, and Kornilov’s army almost 
withered away. Not only was the revolution safe; it was stronger 
than it had been before. 

Reed and Louise Bryant, taking a small apartment, began to 
orientate themselves. There were Americans, of course, in the 
city, but they were not particularly interested in the diplomats 
and business men. They did find, however, two young sympa- 


thizers, Albert Rhys Williams, a Socialist, who had arrived in 
June, and Bessie Beatty, a journalist. Then there was Alexander 
Gumberg, a Russian from New York, who was acting as trans- 
lator for Colonel Raymond Robins of the Red Cross. And there 
were a number of Americans who were cooperating with the 
revolutionary forces, including Bill and Anna Shatoff and Gum- 
berg’s brother, Zorin. With the aid of these, and with the smat- 
tering of Russian he had picked up eighteen months before, 
Reed had little difficulty in finding out what was going on. 

One of the first things he did was to attend a meeting of shop 
committee delegates, where he listened to discussions of plans 
for the transfer of control to the workers. He was delighted; 
this was what he had long hoped to see. Soon afterward he was 
present when the Bolsheviks won a majority in the Petrograd 
Soviet, and he did not miss the significance of that event. Tre- 
mendously excited by all that he saw, full of high spirits, playing 
pranks, talking with every one who would talk with him, he felt 
himself swept ahead on the full tide of history. “The old town 
has changed!” he wrote Boardman Robinson. “Joy where there 
was gloom, and gloom wlhere there was joy. We are in the mid- 
dle of things, and believe me it’s thrilling. There is so much 
dramatic to write that I don’t know where to begin. For color 
and terror and grandeur this makes Mexico look pale.” 

A week after his arrival he could see the situation clear. “This 
revolution,” he wrote, “has now settled down to the class strug- 
gle pure and simple, as predicted by the Marxians. The so-caUed 
‘bourgeois liberals,’ Redzianske, Lvov, Milyukov, et al., have 
definitely aligned themselves with the capitalist elements. The 
intellectuals and romantic revolutionaries, except Gorky, are 
shocked at what revolution really is, and either gone over to the 
Cadets or quit. The old-timers— most of.them— like Kropotkin, 
Breshkovskaya, even Alladdin— are entirely out of sympathy 
with the present movement; their real concern was with a politi- 
cal revolution, and the political revolution has happened, and 
Russia is a republic, I beheve, for ever— but what is going on 
now is an economic revolution, which they don’t understand nor 
care for. Through the tempest of events tumbling over one an- 
other which is beating upon Russia, the Bolsheviki star steadily 


rises. The Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviet, which has gained im- 
mense power since the Kornilov business, is the real government 
of Russia again, and the Bolshevik power in the soviet is grow- 
ing fast.” 

John Reed was using his eyes. They were stiU the eyes of a 
poet, but they were also the eyes of a partisan. “Already I have 
thousands of comrades here,” he wrote a friend. He was not re- 
porting battles like those of the World War, to whose outcome 
he was quite indifferent. It was not even the same as in Mexico, 
where merely his sympathies were on the side of Villa’s men. He 
had not been adopted by the Russian revolutionists; he belonged 
with them, for they were fighting his battles. The distrust of the 
working class that had so long plagued him disappeared. The 
gloom that the war had fostered vanished before the great hope 
that steadily grew in his mind. The old questions as to what he 
could and should do simply never occurred to him. He found 
himself, not only emotionally, as had happened in Mexico, but 
also intellectually, for now the revolutionary ideas he had ab- 
sorbed came to life. He was gayer than he had been for many 
months, but he was also more serious than he had ever been 

He made no secret of his partisanship, and some of his fellow- 
countrymen became alarmed. On September 30, a mass meeting 
was held in the Cirque Modeme on behalf of Alexander Berk- 
man, with Bill Shatofi as the principal speaker. The meeting sent 
greetings to Berkman, Goldman, and “aU those who in ‘free’ 
America fight for the social revolution.” The American ambas- 
sador, David R. Francis, received from a secret agent a report 
that Reed had told the Bolsheviks that Berkman was likely to be 
executed. The agent also stated that Reed had had the Asso- 
ciated Press barred from the Democratic Congress on the ground 
that it was capitalistic. Francis was particularly dismayed be- 
cause Reed, when he made a formal call at the embassy, had 
brought a letter of introduction from Dudley Field Malone, 
who, as Collector of the Port of New York, was an ofScial of 
the Wilson administration. Francis’ agents stole Reed’s wallet, 
in which they found a letter from Morris Hillquit to Camille 

26 i 


Huysmans, and one from Hnysmans to the Scandinavian So- 
cialist Committee. 

From that time on, Reed was watched by secret service men. 
One of the agents contrived to talk with him, and noted down 
each of his heterodox remarks. Reed said that he was a Socialist, 
said that workmen could manage factories themselves, said that 
if workmen were paid m proportion to their labor they would 
get all the profits, said that the Bolsheviks were the only party 
in Russia with a program. He even, the agent noted, mentioned 
“the Marx theory.” To make a thorough job of it, Reed, who 
very possibly knew a spy when he saw one, added that the Bol- 
sheviks, when they took power, would expel aU ambassadors. 
On receiving the agent’s report, Francis hastened to cable Wash- 
ington for instructions. 

Reed went his own way, his notebook in his pocket. He went 
to every important meeting, interviewed every influential leader 
he could reach, talked with scores of people in whatever mixture 
of Russian, English, French, and German would serve his pur- 
pose. He took elaborate notes on the conditions of industry, the 
army, and the church. He saw Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan the Ter- 
rible, heard Chaliapin sing, watched Karsavina dance, visited the 
art galleries. He had tea with wealthy merchants and talked with 
the poor in their bread-lines. 

On the tenth of October, he and Albert Rhys Williams and 
Boris Reinstein, a leader of the Socialist Labor Party in the 
United States, went to the northern front. In their compartment 
was an Orthodox priest, a volunteer chaplain on his way to the 
trenches, who explained in detail the position of the Orthodox 
Church, and the relation between rehgion and revolution, while 
Reed carefully took notes. Then there was a captain who spoke 
French. “Tseretelli, Dan, Lieber, Gotz, and Chkheidze are the 
Girondins of our time,” he said. “They will share the fate of the 
Gidronde. I am with them.” 

They slept all night in the cold car, and woke, stiff and numb, 
to look out on bright autumn foliage, yellow wheat stuhble, and 
miles of the pale blue-green of cabbages. Soldiers became more 
common at the station, and they passed troop trains. At Venden 
they left the train and inquired for staff headquarters. “You don’t 


want the staff,” some one explained; “the Iskosol is in charge of 
things here.” So they went to the Iskosol, the central executive 
committee of the soldiers’ deputies. There were three or four 
young officers and soldiers in the room, and one of them was 
reading aloud, with sardonic comments from his companions, 
the names of the members of the new cabinet. Near the window 
sat Voitinsky, a Kerensky supporter, author of a famous book 
and now a civilian commissar in charge of building up the mili- 
tary machine. 

One of the officers told them the story of the founding of the 
Iskosol, during the March revolution, and explamed its func- 
tions. Listening to him, Reed began to understand the terrible 
eagerness for self-govemment and self-expression that had taken 
iimumerable organizational forms along a thousand miles of 
front. In the twelfth army there was an intricate system of com- 
mittees, half political and half military, culminating in the Litde 
Soviet of Soldiers’ Deputies, composed of one delegate from 
each regiment, and the Big Soviet, with five from a regiment. It 
was the Soviet that, every three months, elected the Iskosol, 
which served as a commissariat department, ordering oil from 
Baku, wheat from the Volga, lumber from Archangel, and muni- 
tions from Petrograd, and also maintained the morale of the 
army and actually, in time of stress, took command of its mili- 
tary actions. 

Thanks to the Iskosol, the Americans were provided with a 
room for the night, and, the next morning, vinth an automobile, 
to take them to the lines. Reed, bemg active, was happy, and 
sang and joked as they drove in the rain, bumping along the 
pitted, muddy road to Riga. They passed trucks and groups of 
soldiers and little knots of peasant women. Soon they came to 
the fertile country of the Estland barons, powerful German 
land-owners, the most reactionary in Russia. There were elab- 
orate chateaux and once prosperous farmhouses, now roofless 
and looted. Cabbages were rotting in the fields. As they entered 
a little village that was under fire, shells tore apart houses only 
a block or two from them, and Reed cheerfully commented on 
the bad aim of the Germans. Creeping behind a cedar hedge, 
they came at last to a Russian battery. There was much talk 



about the betrayal of Riga, many questions about the events in 
Petrograd. The soldiers, without enough food or clothing, help- 
less in the face of the German attack, talked about going home. 

They came back at night, passing by the fires of the refugees’ 
camps, weaving their way through a miserable procession of 
homeless men and women, barefooted soldiers, wounded men, 
patrols, and reliefs. Early the next mor nin g an ambulance took 
them to the headquarters of a Lettish brigade, where the sol- 
diers’ committee was to investigate a complaint regarding the 
inefficiency of sixteen officers. The colonel was a frank Tsarist, 
who said that the army had been spoiled because the soldiers had 
been permitted to think. He and his staff were good-natured and 
hospitable, but they expressed only contempt for the soldiers’ 
committees. The committee in charge of the investigation was 
composed of five privates and one non-commissioned officer. 
One of them, Reed noticed, was reading Lenin’s Imperialism. It 
was the soviet, he realized, that was actually doing the work of 
the officers, providing supplies, assigning quarters, locating 
troops, and administering justice. 

On Sunday there was a double mass-meeting in Venden, Rus- 
sian in one corner and Lettish in the other, with some fifteen 
thousand troops in attendance. Though the rumble of artillery 
was never silent and German airplanes repeatedly passed over- 
head, the theme of the meeting was peace. When the airplanes 
came too close, both meetings moved from the square to the 
grounds of a medieval castle of the Teutonic Knights. Here, for 
five hours, speaker followed speaker, most of them crying, “All 
power to the Soviets, land for the peasants, an immediate demo- 
cratic peace.” And when the band came, playing “The Marseil- 
laise,” the thousands, Letts and Russians, joined in thunderous, 
exalted song. 

The train back to Petrograd was crowded. On the roof sol- 
diers stamped their feet and sang shrill songs in the freezing night 
air. Inside the compartment a group of nurses and young officers 
made love. A captain coughed and spat blood. All through the 
night the accorffion on ffie roof wheezed, and feet stamped 
rhythmically. Reed, in the half-light, crouched over his note- 
book, filling out the details of the trip. 


In Petrograd every one was a little more tense. Reed went to 
see Stepan Georgevitch Lianozov, known as the Russian Rocke- 
feller because of his vast interests in oh. He groaned about the 
increases in wages and the shop-committees’ interference with 
his business. Conditions would be bad, he said, until the workers 
came to their senses. Trade unions were all right in their place, 
and he had voluntarhy introduced arbitration boards in his 
plants, but the workers must he shown where the power lay, 
“Revolution is a sickness,” he said. “Sooner or later the foreign 
powers must intervene here— as one would intervene to cure a 
sick chhd.” The Bolsheviks, he thought, were cowards, and could 
easily be disposed of by a show of force. He expected the res- 
toration of the monarchy. 

The class lines were being drawn more and more sharply. Reed 
went out to Sestroretzk, a httle way from Petrograd. What had 
once been a wealthy summer resort had become, during the war, 
a munitions center. The military oflScials had been driven out of 
the factories at the time of the March revolution, and shop- 
committees had been established. These committees had reduced 
hours, increased wages, lowered costs, and raised production. 
They had finished two buildings that government graft had de- 
layed since 1914, and had bmlt a hospital for the workers. They 
had arranged for the transportation of food, maintained disci- 
pline in the factories, and reorganized the town. 

On October 21, he went to another munitions plant, the 
Obukhovsky Zavod, where a Bolshevik meeting was being held. 
Ten thousand black-clothed men and women crowded into an 
unfinished building. Petrovsky, who had been in America, was 
on the shop-committee there, and had played an important part 
in the administration of the factory. He spoke, slig ht, slow- 
voiced, implacable: “Now is the time for deeds, not words. The 
economic situation is bad, but we must get used to it. They are 
trying to starve us and freeze us. They are trying to provoke us. 
But let them know that they can go too far— that if they dare to 
lay their hands upon the organizations of the proletariat we 
will sweep them away like scum from the face of the earth!” 
Lunacharsky aho spoke, and Reed and Williams brought greet- 
ings from America. 


On the way home, as the ponderous steam tram shuddered 
through the black mud of the Viborg district, a soldier who had 
been at the meeting came up to them. Wringing his hands, he 
told about the front, about the unnecessary retreats and the fu- 
tile advances. “Why,” he cried, “did American workers allow 
America to enter the war and prolong it? Why won’t they rise 
and help us stop it? My God, it is awful that we revolutionary 
Russians must die, that our revolution must be crushed in blood, 
because our brothers, for whom we are figh ting , will not raise 
a hand!” 

The reactionaries seemed determined to provoke popular 
anger. On the twenty-third Reed had a talk, in the press gallery 
of the Council of the Republic, with Burtsev, editor of Common 
Cause. “Mark my words, young man,” he said. “What Russia 
needs is a Strong Man. We should get our minds ofiF revolution 
now and concentrate on the Germans.” His paper advocated a 
dictatorship of Kornilov, Kerensky, and Kaledin. Three or four 
papers were clamoring for the extermination of the revolutionary 

In the Council of the Republic Kerensky sat with his eyes 
closed or wirh his gray face in his hands. Every day the gulf 
between the two sides of the chamber deepened. The Bolsheviks 
had withdrawn from the Council, but the Menshevik Interna- 
tionalists and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries were driven by 
the arrogance of the Cadets to adopt what was practically the 
Bolshevik, position. Martov, so sick that he could scarcely stand 
and so hoarse that his voice could only be heard near the plat- 
form, shook his finger toward the right benches. “You call us 
defeatists,” he said, “but the real defeatists are those who wait 
for a more propitious moment to conclude peace, insist upon 
postponing peace until later, until nothing is left of the Russian 
army, until Russia becomes the subject of bargaining between the 
different imperialist groujra. You are trying to impose upon the 
people a- policy dictated by the interests of the bourgeoisie.” 
Kerensky, making a vain effort for unity, became hysterical, 
burst into tears, and ran from the chamber. 

Gorky’s paper, Nm Life, pointed out the menace of the 
Cossacks. Kaledin had refused to resign after the Kornilov 


affair, and the government had been forced to overlook his insub- 
ordination. Russia was breaking up: nationalist movements grew 
bolder in the Ukraine, Finland, Poland, and White Russia. At 
Helsingfors the Finnish Senate declined to lend money to the 
provisional government, and at Kiev the bourgeois Rada hinted 
at a separate peace with Germany. Kerensky was helpless. Hun- 
dreds of thousands of soldiers were deserting; peasants were 
burning manor-houses and seizing land; great strikes paralyzed 
Moscow, Odessa, and the coal-fields of the Don. The govern- 
ment, tom between the two factions, could do nothing. 

Attention focused on the approaching Congress of Soviets, 
opposed not only by the government but also by the moderate 
Socialists. Bolshevik orators, touring the barracks and factories, 
explained the purposes of the Congress. Reed heard them every- 
where, always demanding peace and all power to the Soviets, 
always giving direction to the vast, vague passion of revolt. Two 
new Bolshevik papers appeared, makmg four in all. At Smolny 
Institute, once a famous convent-school for daughters of the 
nobility, the committees of the Petrograd Soviet were in con- 
stant session. The corridors were filled with hurrying soldiers 
and workmen, many of them laden with newspapers and pamph- 
lets. Reed stood in line with a thousand others in the old refec- 
tory, and got cabbage soup, hunks of meat, and a slab of black 
bread. Outside the ofiSce of the credentials committee for the 
Congress, he watched the soldiers, workers, and peasants as they 
filed in and out— the men, he knew, who would shape the future 
of Russia. 

Petrograd, in those last days of October, was a strange city. 
In the factories, committee-rooms were stacked with rifles, and 
the Red Guard drilled outside. Meetings were held every night 
in the barracks. Crowds fought for newspapers. Hold-ups be- 
came common. Bread-lines grew. Gambling clubs were open all 
night, and prostitutes in jewels and furs crowded the cafes. 
Smolny was buzzing. In the rain and the cold the city waited. 

On the twenty-ninth of October Reed sent a short article to 
Boardman Robinson for publication in the Call. “I have so far 
learned one lesson,” he wrote, “and that is that the working 
class and the employing class have nothing in common.” Sum- 


marizing the varioiis parties and issues, he wrote, “It is possible 
that the proletariat will finally lose its temper and rise; it is pos- 
sible that the generals will come with fire and sword.’’ He de- 
scribed Kerensky’s physical condition, and commented, “Life is 
hideously swift for compromisers here.” Nothing seemed so sig- 
nificant as the growth in power of the Bolsheviks. “It looks,” 
he concluded, “like a showdown soon.” 


The World Shakes 

J OHN Reed in Petrograd on the eve of the revolution, was a 
good reporter, going everywhere, seeing every one. No one 
could have made the rounds more faithfully or followed 
leads more diligently. His reporter’s legs took his poet’s eyes into 
every comer of the city, and those eyes missed nothing. More- 
over, he felt the significance of events, in their relation both to 
Petrograd’s present and his own past. The rightness of what he 
had become was being tested: if the revolution succeeded, he 
would know his intuition had been sound and his doubts super- 
fluous; the present would lead by a plain path into the future. 
If it fafled- 

As if for the precise purpose of rounding out his education, 
Kerensky at last consented to give him an interview. How many 
hours he had waited, with generals and commissars, outside the 
minister-president’s office! Always there had been excuses, but 
on the morning of October 20, as Reed and Louise Bryant sat in 
the Tsar’s billiard-room and looked at the rosewood panels inlaid 
with brass, a naval adjutant came and led them to the private 
library. Kerensky walked towards them, his face an unhealthy 
color, his hair bristling, his hands nervous. Reed had watched 
him in the Democratic Congress and the Council of the Repub- 
lic, seen the man’s strange magnetism work miracles, seen him 
mount from eloquence to hysteria and collapse in weeping. 
Even now he felt something of his charm and surrendered to the 
impression he gave of passionate sincerity. 

Reed, permitted to ask only a few questions, had planned them 
carefully. ^‘What do you consider your job here?” was his first. 



Kerenslcy parried with a smile: “Just to free Russia,” he said. 
“What do you think will be the solution of the present struggle 
between the extreme radicals and the extreme revolutionaries?” 
It was the crucial question; Kerensky refused to answer it. 
“What have you to say to the democratic masses of the United 
States? ” There was a smile and a shrug, and an easy answer pat- 
tered out: “Let them understand the Russian democracy and 
help to fight reaction— everywhere in the world. Let them under- 
stand the soul of Russia, the real spirit of the revolution.” Finally 
Reed asked, “What lesson do you draw from the Russian revo- 
lution for the revolutionary democratic elements of the world?” 
But Kerensky was not to be caught. “Do you think the revolu- 
tion is over? ” he asked. “It would be very short-sighted for me 
to draw any lesson. The revolution is not over— it is just begin- 
ning! Let the masses of the Russian people teach their own les- 
son. Draw the lesson yourself, comrade— you can see it before 
your eyes.” 

Reed could. He knew, if Kerensky did not, that the provi- 
sional government could not endure. And he went straight from 
the Winter Palace to Smolny, where the future was taking shape. 
Here, in the session of the Petrograd Soviet, the Central Execu- 
tive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets, the Tsay-ee-kah, was 
making its last stand for compromise and moderation. And the 
members were being heckled and hooted down by the represen- 
tatives of the workers, soldiers, and peasants. These were the 
forces that would destroy the provisional government: this peas- 
ant who said Kerensky was protecting the land-owners, this ma- 
chinist who charged the Purilov factory superintendents with 
provocation and sabotage, this soldier who began, “Comrades! I 
bring you greetings from the places where men are digging their 
graves and call them trenches.” Against this passion of revolt the 
eloquence and evasiven^ of Kerensky and the caution of the 
Tsay-ee-kah could not stand. 

The session of the Petrograd Soviet went on and on through 
the night. A tail, gaimt young soldier rose to speak, and was 
greeted with roaring applause. It was Tchudnovsky, who had 
been reported killed in the July fighting. The officers, he said, 
were betraying the soldiers, and he threatened violence if the 



Constituent Assembly was postponed. He was followed by an 
officer, a Menshevik, whose call for the prosecution of the war 
was greeted by hoots. “Let us for a moment forget the class 
struggle—” he said, and a voice cried, “Don’t you wish we 

As Reed attended the various meetings, he tried to learn the 
plans of the Bolsheviks. The city was full of rumors, and it was 
not always easy for him to determine the truth. Some one told 
him that, at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik 
Party on October 23, only Lenin and Trotsky, among the intel- 
lectuals, had advocated insurrection. The decision was against 
an uprising, his informant said, until a workman arose and de- 
manded action in the name of the proletariat. It was a story 
that appealed to Reed’s sense of the romantic, and he wrote it 
down, though as a matter of record ten out of the twelve mem- 
bers of the committee had voted for the seizure of power. 

AlS far as Lenin’s position was concerned, it was explained 
in his “Letter to Comrades,” the first installment of which ap- 
peared in Rabotchi Put the morning of the first of November. 
Reed was enough impressed to take time to record in his note- 
book the arguments with which Lenin dismissed the objections 
of Kamenev and Zinoviev to a Bolshevik uprising. He relished 
the powerful irony: “Let us forget all that was being and has 
been demonstrated by the Bolsheviks a hundred times, all that 
the half year’s history of our revolution has proven, namely, that 
there is no way out, that there is no objective way out and can 
be none outside of either a dictatorship of the Komilovists or a 
dictatorship of the proletariat. Let us forget this, let us renounce 
all this and wait! M^ait for what? "Wait for a miracle: for the 
tempestuous and catastrophic course of events from May 3 until 
September 1 1 to be succeeded (due to the prolongation of the 
wax and the spread of famine) by a peaceful, quiet, smooth, 
legal convocation of the Constituent Assembly and by a fulfil- 
ment of its most lawful decisions. Here you have ‘Marxist’ tac- 
tics! Wait, ye hungry! Kerensky has promised to convoke the 
Constituent Assembly.” 

For a day or two there was a pause, as Petrograd braced itself. 
On November 3, Zalkind told Reed that there was to be an im- 


portant Bolshevik party conference, in which Lenin would par- 
ticipate. Reed, alive with curiosity and anticipation, hastened to 
Smolny, to wait in the corridor outside the conference room. As 
Lenin left, his face was calm and his low words to his compan- 
ions had a ring of hard certainty in them. Reed watched him , 
wondering if he was equal to the tasks that history had thrust 
upon him. When he saw Volodarsly, whom he knew, Reed 
plunged into a series of questions, and from the cautious answers 
he gathered that Lenin had called for action within three or four 

In the confusion of the period of preparation, the whole city 
was open to an audacious reporter. The Bolsheviks, so far as they 
troubled about the matter at all, accepted Reed as a friend, and 
he had free access to Smolny. His credentials, his nationality, and 
his appearance satisfied the ofiicials of the provisional govern- 
ment. Thus he could watch both sides as they made ready for 
battle. He knew that loyal regiments were being brought into 
Petrograd and that the junker artillery had been placed in the 
Winter Palace. He was not surprised when Petrograd, Kron- 
stadt, and Finland were declared in a state of siege. 

When he left his room on the fifth, it was cold and the streets 
were muddy. After watching the crowds, he went to Smolny. 
In room 10, on the top floor, where the Military Revolutionary 
G)mmittee was in continuous session, Lazimir, the boyish chair- 
man, told him that Peter-Paul Fortress had come over to the 
committee. Reed watched the people coming and going: Pod- 
voisky, thin, bearded, wrapped up in plans for insurrection; An- 
tonov, unshaven, his coUar filthy, drunk with loss of sleep; Kril- 
enko, always smiling, violent in gesture and speech; Dibenko, a 
giant with a placid face. “These,” he recorded, “were the men 
of the hour— and of other hours to come.” 

On the way downstairs, he noticed Seratov, assigning arms 
to the factories. In the Petrograd Soviet Trotsky was speaking, 
and there was great applause when he announced that the Left 
Social Revolutionaries had agreed to send representatives to the 
Mihtary Revolutionary Committee. As Reed left Smolny at 
three in the morning, he met Bill Shatoff. “We’re off!” Shatoff 
shouted. “Kerensky sent the junkers to close down our papers. 


but our troops went down and smashed the government seal, 
and now we’re sending detachments to seize the bourgeois news- 
paper offices.” He clapped Reed on the shoulder and ran into 
the building. 

As a boy in Portland, John Reed had read history and dreamed 
of fairing part in some event that the future would call epoch- 
making. At Harvard he had longed for adventure. During six 
years of journalism he had imagined the perfect story. Now, 
conscious as he was of the social importance of what was hap- 
pening, and of its significance for all his hopes of a better world, 
he was jubilantly aware of his own good fortune. And when 
Bill Shatoff shouted, “We’re off!” John Reed looked speechless 
at Louise Bryant, his eyes sparkling, a grin slowly spreading the 
comers of his mouth. The revolution had begun, and he was 
there to report it. 

The next morning, after having sent a dispatch to the Masses, 
Reed went to the Marinsky Palace to hear the end of Kerensky’s 
passionate and incoherent speech. Once more he took the 
crowded troUey to Smolny, where the Petrograd Soviet was still 
in session. All through the afternoon and until after midnight, 
he listened to the debate, knowing, even when he could not 
understand the speeches, that more and more of the soldiers and 
workers were demanding the seizure of the government. It was 
nearly four in the morning when, in an outer hall, he saw Zorin 
with a rifle slung over his shoulder. There were regiments, Zorin 
said, on the march to capture the telephone exchange, the tele- 
graph agency, and the state bank. 

It was late when Reed got up. He and Louise Bryant went to 
Albert Rhys Williams’ room, where they tried to make out from 
the papers what had happened the night before. As the three of 
them went out on the streets, they noticed the numbers of sol- 
diers in front of the telephone exchange. At the door of the 
Marinsky Palace there was a great mass of soldiers and sailors, 
and a cordon had been thrown across the square. A barricade of 
boxes, barrels, and furniture blocked one street, and others were 
being built. Soldiers and sailors were thronging into the square 
from as far as they could see. Reed heard a sailor telling of the 



end of the Council of the Russian Republic: “We walked in 
there and fiUed all the doors with comrades. I went up to the 
counter-revolutionist Komilovitz, who sat in the president’s 
chair. ‘No more council,’ I says. ‘Run along home now!’ ” 

The trio went to the Winter Palace. The guards looked at 
them with surprise, but were impressed by their credentials. 
Reed led the way to Kerensky’s office, and they spoke to the 
young officer who was nervously walking up and down outside. 
“Alexander Feodorovitch is extremely occupied just now,” he 
said in French. “In fact, he is not here.” They turned away, and 
wandered through the ornate corridors until they came to the 
front of the palace. A guard told them they could not enter, but 
he left them alone, and they opened a great door and walked into 
the midst of the junker companies. Reed pitied these boys, stu- 
dents from the officers’ training school, who seemed as bewil- 
dered at the revolution as they were at the presence of three 

It was five-thirty when they left the Winter Palace. In some 
sections the trolley-cars had stopped running, and a few streets 
were dark, but the theatres were aU open, and many store win- 
dows were bright. Up the Nevsky the whole city seemed to be 
out promenading. Noisy discussions went on at every comer. 
Richly dressed men and women shook their fists at g rinning 
soldiers. Armored cars drove through the streets, their sirem 

Outside Smolny automobiles and motorcycles came and went, 
and Red Guards sat around a blazing bonfire. The extraordinary 
sesaon of the Petrograd Soviet, having proclaimed the victory 
of the proletariat, had ended, and many of the leaders came 
hurrying out, with harassed, anxious faces and with bulging port- 
folios under their arms. Reed managed to detain Kamenev, who 
read him in French the resolution the soviet had adopted. “There 
is much to do,” he said. “Horribly much. It is just be ginning ” 

The great hall in which the All-Russian Congress of Soviets 
was about to open was crowded. Reed sat beside Petrovsky, who 
was exhausted from three nights’ sleepless work on the Military 
Revolutionary Committee. Gotz, Dan, Lieber, and the other 
repr^entatives of the old Central Executive Committee were on 


the platform, white-faced, hollow-eyed, and indignant. Dan an- 
nounced the Congress open, and the new presidium, fourteen out 
of its twenty-five members Bolsheviks, took charge. While the 
leaders of the moderates launched their attack on the conduct 
of the Bolsheviks, the majority of the workers, peasants, and 
soldiers in the congress thundered their approval of the seizure 
of power. Realizing their defeat, some fifty Mensheviks and 
Socialist Revolutionaries marched out of the congress, hooted, 
threatened, and cursed. 

Reed, Louise Bryant, and Williams, who had by now been 
joined by Bessie Beatty and Alexander Gumberg, left the hall. 
The Military Revolutionary Committee gave them passes, and 
a motor-truck carried them into the city. As they rode, they 
helped throw into the street leaflets announcing the end of the 
provisional government and the victory of the Soviets. At the 
comer of the Ekaterina Canal, a cordon of armed sailors was 
drawn across the Nevsky, stopping a procession of three or four 
hundred people, many of them well-dressed. Reed recognized 
among them some of the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary 
delegates who had withdrawn from the congress. He questioned 
a reporter he knew, who said cheerfully, “They’re going to die 
in the Winter Palace.” But, after some oratory, they decided not 
to make the gesture. 

Reed and the other Americans took advantage of this diversion 
to slip past the guards and start in the direction of the Winter 
Palace. Just as they arrived, soldiers, sailors, and Red Guards 
suddenly surged forward, and, without a shot being fired, 
pressed into the palace. The junkers were disarmed and released. 
Half a dozen members of the provisional government, discov- 
ered in secret rooms and passages, were arrested and taken to the 
Peter-Paul Fortress. 

Unhindered, the five of them wandered about the palace, even 
reaching the gold and malachite chamber with crimson brocade 
hangings where the ministers had been in session all the preced- 
ing night. On the table were scribbled sheets of paper, one of 
which Reed took as a souvenir. And that was not all he took. As 
the group left the palace, the guards who had been stationed at 
the exits to prevent looting started to search them. Reed insisted 



that he and his friends were above suspicion, and finally grew so 
convincingly indignant that the guards let them all pass. As soon 
as he was safely out in the street, he flung back his coat, and 
showed the others a jeweled sword. And when they turned on 
him, saying that he had risked their lives as well as his own, he 
chuckled and refused to believe they were in earnest. 

They went to the City Duma, but the oratory of the anti- 
Bolsheviks did not interest them, and they left. Though it was 
after three when they came out into the cold, nervous night, 
Reed insisted that they must go back to Smolny, and, after a 
long search, found them a cab. As they entered the hall, as 
crowded as ever despite the secession of many delegates, Kame- 
nev was reading to the audience, weary but stfll noisy, the names 
of the arrested ministers. A commissar from Tsarskoe Syelo an- 
nounced that the garrison there was with the Soviets and would 
defend Petrograd. A Menshevik Internationalist proposed to 
elect a special committee to find a peaceful solution. Among 
cries of “There isn’t any peaceful solution” and “Victory is the 
only solution,” the motion was defeated, and the Menshevik In- 
ternationalists left the congress. A proclamation was issued to 
all the workers, peasants, and soldiers of Russia, promising peace, 
land for the peasants, and bread. At a few minutes after five 
Krilenko, staggering with fatigue, climbed to the tribune and 
read a telegram, announcing that the twelfth army had formed a 
Military Revolutionary Committee, which had taken charge of 
the northern front. Men shouted, wept, embraced each other. 
For the time being, Petrograd was safe. 

Reed marveled that, on the eighth, life in Petrograd could be so 
normal. Hundreds of thousands of people went about their work 
as usual. The street-cars were ru nnin g, and stores, restaurants, 
and theatres were open. At the session of the Gty Duma and the 
meeting of the newly formed Committee for Salvation, Reed 
indignantly watched the open plotting of counter-revolution. 
Sleek journalists and business men talked about the filthy Bolshe- 
viks and boasted of what would be done to them. And useful lies 
were already being circulated: a Constitutional Democrat, for- 
merly secretary to Mflyukov, told Louise Bryant and Reed that 


the capture of the Winter Palace had been led by officers in 
German uniforms, and that the women in the Death Battalion 
had all been raped. 

Smolny was tenser than ever. In the dark corridors men ran 
back and forth. Leaders explained, argued, ordered— unshaven, 
filthy, with burning eyes. They did not know when they had 
last slept. Riazanov explained to Reed, in a kind of humorous 
panic, that he. Commissar of Commerce, knew nothing of busi- 
ness. Menzhinsky, Commissar of Finance, sat in the comer of 
the upstairs cafe, wrapped in a goat-skin cape, figuring on a dirty 
envelope. Four men came ranning out of the office of the Mili- 
tary Revolutionary Committee, commissars sent to the four cor- 
ners of Russia to carry news, to argue, if necessary to fight with 
whatever weapons there might be. 

The congress was to meet at one o’clock, but at seven the 
presidium had not appeared. Lenin, Reed heard, had spent the 
entire afternoon convincing the Bolshevik fraction that compro- 
mise would be fatal. At 8:40 the presidium entered the hall. 
Lenin was among them, a short stocky figure, with a big head 
set down on his shoulders, bald and bulging. His heavy chin was 
again bristling with the beard that was soon to become so fa- 
miliar. His eyes were small, his nose short, his mouth wide and 
generous. His clothes were shabby and his trousers much too 
long for him. A strange man, Reed thought once more, a man 
who led by virtue of his intellect, undramatic, unpicturesque,' 
but with the power of explaining profound ideas in simple terms, 
and with the greatest shrewdness and the greatest audacity. 

After reports by Kamenev and speeches from the floor, Lenin 
rose, his hand gripping the edge of the readii^ stand, his little 
eyes traveling over the crowd as the ovation rolled on for min- 
ute after minute. When it ceased, he said, “We shall now pro- 
ceed to construct the Socialist order.” Again that overwhelming 
human roar. He read the proclamation to the peoples and gov- 
ernments of the belligerent nations: immediate negotiations for 
a just and democratic peace, no annexations or indemnities, the 
publication of the secret treaties, a three-months’ armistice. “The 
revolution of November sixth and seventh,” he said, “has opened 



the era of social revolution. The labor movement, in the name of 
peace and Socialism, shall fulfill its destiny.” 

After some hesitation, support for the resolution grew more 
and more enthusiastic, and, when Kamenev called for a show of 
hands, the vote was unanimous. They stood, Reed with the rest, 
singing “The Internationale.” A grizzled old soldier sobbed. 
Alexandra KoUontai was winking back her tears. “The war is 
ended! The war is ended!” cried a young soldier near Reed. 
And then, after an awkward hush, some one began the funeral 
march, slow, moving, and yet triumphant: “You fell in the fatal 
fight.” Reed thought of the martyrs of March, in their Brother- 
hood Grave on Mars Field, of the thousands and tens of thou- 
sands who had died in prison, in exile, in the Siberian mines. It 
had not come as they had expected it would come, but it had 
come, rough, strong, and real. 

On Friday the ninth, Reed went to a meeting of armored-car 
troops at the Mikhailovsky Riding-School. To these troops, who 
could control the city for whichever side they supported, came 
representatives of revolution and counter-revolution. They hesi- 
tated, swayed this way and that. Then Krilenko spoke, telling 
them that Kerensky, Kaledin, and Kornilov were coming. “The 
government is in your hands,” he cried. “You are the masters. 
Great Russia is yours. Will you give it back? ” When the motion 
was put, there was a moment of doubt, and then hundreds of 
soldiers surged over to the left of the hall. And this, Reed knew, 
was happening in every barrack of the city, the district, the 
front, all Russia, happening in aU the locals of every labor union, 
in every factory, in the battleships. Milhons of men, listening 
anxiously, trying hard to understand, thinking intensely— and 
then deciding. 

Again Reed went the rotmds, Smolny, the Committee for Sal- 
vation, the Duma. The mayor announced that he would go to 
the Peter-Paul Fortress to investigate the conditions of the pris- 
oners who had been arrested at the taking of the Winter Palace 
two nights before. A commission was appointed. Reed boldly 
followed, bluffing his way past the guards. He spoke to some of 
the prisoners, and he questioned the mayor as the commission 


left. “There is no truth in the reports,” Schreider told him . “Ex- 
cept for the incidents which occurred as the ministers were being 
brought here, they have been treated with every consideration. 
As for the junkers, not one has received the slightest injury.” 

Reed went back to his rooms through dark streets, watching 
the lights in the buildings where counter-revolution was being 
plotted. The next morning counter-revolution moved towards 
action. An airplane flew low over the city, distributing a proc- 
lamation in which Kerensky threatened vengeance on aU who 
did not submit, and it was rumored that he would be in the city, 
at the head of an army, within a few hours. Reed wanted to see 
Kerensky’s forces, and he went, with Louise Bryant and Alb ert- 
Rhys Williams, to Tsarskoe Syelo. Kerensky had not arrived, 
they found, and they returned to Petrograd. 

They missed the capture of Tsarskoe Syelo, which came the 
next morning, but they saw the fighting in Petrograd. Reed, 
awakened by the sound of firing, hurried into his clothes, and 
went out into the streets. The life of the city still seemed to be 
gou^ its normal way, but battles were in progress in half a dozen 
sections. The Mihtary Hotel and the telegraph agency were 
captured by junkers and then re-taken. The telephone exchange, 
which the Bolsheviks had lost the night before, was being be- 
sieged by sailors. Reed spent the day in going from one front 
to another, his hopes falling with each junker victory and rising 
with every gain made by the Red Guard. When he returned to 
his room, he found that Louise Bryant had come closer to actual 
bullets than he; while she crouched in an archway in St. Isaac’s 
square, junkers had fired on a street crowd from an armored car 
and killed seven. 

They set out together on the twelfth, going first to Smolny. 
Reed was always fascinated by the Bolshevik organization. Ker- 
ensky was only a few miles away, and no one knew how the 
battle was going. The tasks of the various committees and the 
different officials seemed inhumanly difficult. The minister of 
finance had once been a clerk in a bank. The minister of com- 
merce had been an historian. A common sailor, a military cadet, 
and a civilian were in charge of the army and navy. But nothing 
could discourage the Bolsheviks, and apparently no task was toe 



much for them. Men fell on the floor, blind with fatigue, but the 
work went on. 

While contradictory rumors came from Tsarskoe Syelo, Reed 
and Louise Bryant went to the Duma, to a secret meeting of the 
Committee for Salvation, and then back to Smolny. In the meet- 
ing of the soviet, Kamenev was speaking, denouncing the pro- 
posals for peace that the Mensheviks had made. “All they ask of 
us,” he said, “are three little things: to surrender power, to make 
the soldiers continue the war, and to make the peasants forget 
about the land.” Other speakers followed him, explaining, ex- 
horting, arguing, soldiers and workmen, each standing up to 
speak his mind and his heart. Then, at three o’clock in the morn- 
ing, the great news came: Kerensky had been decisively re- 

It had been a strange battle. From Petrograd and the sur- 
rounding country, soldiers, sailors, and armed workmen had 
rushed into the suburbs of the city. Commissars met them and 
ass^ed them positions. This was their battle, for their world, 
under leaders of their choosing. The vast anonymous horde 
swept over the Cossacks. The sailors fired until they ran out of 
cartridges, and then stormed. Untrained workmen rushed at the 
charging Cossacks, and tore them from their horses. Before the 
ragged troops of the proletariat, Kerensky’s army broke and fled. 

John Reed seemed as tireless as the Bolsheviks themselves. 
Night after night he had stayed late at Smolny, riding home 
wiA the soviet delegates in the trolleys that loyal carmen kept 
at their disposal. He had eaten when he could and where he 
could. Always tense, swept along by the shivering excitement of 
the revolution, he had traveled miles each day, gone from meet- 
ing to meeting, strained to understand the speakers or demanded 
a translation from any one he could press into service. In de- 
fimce of a dozen regulations, he had tom proclamations of all 
parties from the walls, and the piles of leaflets and newspapers 
mounted higher and higher in his room. He could scarcely be- 
lieve that three months earlier he was complaining of the loss of 
his old energy. 

And so, though he had left Smolny not much before dawn, he 
was back again on the snowy Tuesday morning after Kerensky’s 


defeat, and at noon he persuaded the driver of an ambulance to 
take him to the front. First they had lunch at the driver’s bar- 
racks, where, as Reed ate his cabbage soup, the score of soldiers 
questioned him about America, especially Tammany and the seU- 
ing of votes. When the colonel asked if he could go to Tsarskoe 
Syelo, Baklanov, the chairman of the soldiers’ committee, ex- 
plained in a whisper to Reed that the officer had no authority 
except in action, when he was delegated by the committee to 
command. Not only the colonel but most of the others went 
with them, as they drove out along the highway, thronged with 
Red Guards going to or coming from the front. 

So Reed came again to Tsarskoe Syelo, this time filled with 
the happy heroes of the proletarian army. In the office of the 
soviet, Dibenko was bending over a map, marking positions in 
red and blue with one hand, while the other swung an enormous 
blue-steel revolver. Casually he placed Baklanov in charge of the 
town, and Reed went with the new commandant to the Ekater- 
ina Palace. When the colonel who was surrendering control ex- 
plained that he had no keys to the money-chest, Reed, as a neu- 
tral, was assigned to smash it open. It was empty, and the colonel, 
protesting, was arrested. 

In front of the palace there was a truck that was going to the 
front. Reed was given permission to go in it, and sat on the floor 
while bombs rolled back and forth and crashed against the sides. 
A Red Guard questioned him about Mooney and Berkman, and 
he tried to shout back above the roaring of the motor. At a cross- 
roads two soldiers stopped the truck and insisted on e xamining 
the passes of each of its occupants. Reed’s, they observed, was 
not like the others, and, despite the protests of the friendly Red 
Guard, they made him dismount. After some talk they led him 
to a wall, and suddenly he realized that they proposed to shoot 
him. Arguing for his life, he persuaded them to take him to a 
farmhouse, where there was a woman who could read. “A rep- 
resentative of the American Social Democracy,” she read aloud. 
Puzzled, they led him in the half-dark along a muddy road to 
the regimental committee. When he came to the barracks, there 
was a rush of soldiers, and once more he thought he was going 
to be shot. But this time a member of the regimental committee 



appeared, read the pass, and welcomed Reed to the regiment. He 
had dinner with the officers, who were very pleasant but seemed 
much like officers anywhere in the world. The difference ap- 
peared when he saw them taking their orders from the chairman 
of the committee. 

He returned to Tsarskoe in the regimental staff automobile. 
Just as he arrived, Dibenko left for the Cossack camp, where he 
was to bring about the surrender of the army and the final hu- 
miliation of Kerensky. Reed went back to Petrograd on the 
front seat of an auto truck, driven by a workman and filled with 
Red Guards. The truck had no lights, but it plunged furiously 
along a road filled with troops, columns of artillery, and supply 
wagons, wrenching to right and left, scraping wheels, hurtling 
on. On the horizon were the ghttering lights of Petrograd. The 
driver threw an arm around Reed’s shoulder. “We have done it,” 
he cried, “we, the workers and soldiers; we have brought peace 
and killed poverty.” And then, as they came into the city, he 
swept his arm grandly while the truck veered, and he shouted, 
“Our city! Ours! We saved it, the Red Guard!” 


Revolutionary and Poet 

H aving gone through the Russian revolution, John Reed’s 
first concern was to report it as accurately as possible. 
On the morning of November 13, the morning when the 
news reached Smolny of Kerensky’s defeat, Lenin had given him 
a short statement to American Socialists. On the fifteenth Reed 
got permission to cable this message, together with an account 
of Kerensky’s downfall, to the New York CalL After being held 
by the censor in this country, the dispatch was released on No- 
vember 21 and published the next day under a seven-column 

At about the same time Reed sent the Masses by mail the first 
of a series of articles under the general title of “The Rising of 
the Proletariat,” carrymg the story of the revolution down to 
the eve of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets. With the article 
he wrote, “Have cabled many times for money and instructions, 
but no reply whatever. We are broke. I want to stay till Janu- 
ary and return by way of China. Please telegraph my mother we 
are all right.” A week or so later he sent the second part of “The 
Rising of the Proletariat,” principally concerned with the back- 
ground of the revolution, and promised other articles in a week 
or two. 

Reed did not yet know, of course, that, with the November- 
December issue, the Masses had been suppressed, and its editors, 
himself included, indicted, and that neither the articles he had 
sent from Stockholm nor those he was sending from Petrograd 
could be published. It would be three months before the editors 
could manage to bring out the magazine imder a new name, the 

28 z 


Liberator, and in the meanwhile his articles were accumulating 
in the office. The first part of “The Rising of the Proletariat” 
was to appear in the March Liberator, with some changes, as 
“Red Russia— The Triumph of the Bolsheviki.” His article on 
his trip to the northern front before the seizure of power would 
be used in April and May, his articles on Kerenslcy in April, 
his article on Tsarskoe Syelo in July. But the Liberator could 
not catch up with him, and many of his articles remained un- 
published until finally he used them as notes for his book. 

Reed had become a different kind of reporter. In Mexico he 
had looked for color; in Russia he sought substance. He had 
filled his Mexican notebooks with poetic phrases, so that he 
might render with precision the look of the sky or the cast of a 
man’s face. His Russian notebooks were devoted to figures and 
exact quotations. When he did not understand what a man said, 
he found some one to translate for him. If he could not grasp the 
significance of an argument or the purpose of a decree, he went 
to one of the Bolshevik leaders for an explanation. He had not 
lost his sharp awareness of appearances, and he created phrases 
as vivid as any he had written in Mexico, but he was not con- 
tent with catching the surface of events. 

The articles that he somehow found time to hammer out on 
his t5rpewriter between visits to Smolny and explorations of the 
Petrograd streets, were shaped by his eagerness to understand 
and to interpret. He had learned much in the three years be- 
tween his leaving Mexico and his sailing for Russia. The Euro- 
pean war had taught him to look for forces that molded history, 
and he had at least a glimmering of the insight Marx could give. 
But he learned more in his first two months in Russia than all 
the years before had taught him. He shared in the Bolsheviks 
understanding of what they were doing. This was not, so far as 
the leaders were concerned, a blind revolt, such as he had 
watched and welcomed m Mexico; the leaders knew precisely 
where they were going. For this event twenty years of Marxian 
study had prepared Lenin, and Reed could look through Lenin s 

It was a Marxist-Leninist education, given in the form that 
Reed could best appreciate. Here were the events before his 


eyes, and here was the only possible interpretation of them. He 
did not become, did not want to become, a theorist, but he had 
to understand the significance of what he was witnessing. He 
learned that there could be no compromise betwen the bour- 
geoisie and the proletariat, that capitalism must be destroyed, 
and that the proletariat could and oifiy the proletariat would de- 
stroy it. His faith in the working class had grown strong. He 
had seen the bourgeois liberals shrink from the consequences of 
their own theories. |He had seen the intellectuals, turning in hor- 
rorTxbm'aTe violence of the proletariat, support and participate 
in the violence of the bourgeoisie. And he had seen the masses 
of workers, soldiers, and peasants, in a situation of the utmost 
complexity and in spite of gross misleadership, stand firm, seeing 
clearly and fighting bravely. 

It would not be far wrong to say that John Reed came to ma- 
turity during the ten days that shook the world. Of course as a 
writer his development had been precocious: conspicuous in col- 
lege, he had been praised as a man of letters long before he was 
twenty-five and had been famous when he was twenty-seven. 
But until August, 1914, he had remained a playboy, not merely 
in his reckless exploits but in his whole impulsive way of think- 
ing and feeling. The war had saddened him, robbed him of some 
of his boyish confidence in the future, bred doubt of himself and 
the world. Now the revolution, restoring hope and courage, 
gave his life a center. Whatever his career might be— and he had 
no intention of becoming a professional revolutionary— it would 
be set in a world that he understood and would have its due rela- 
tion to goals that he knew were both desirable and attainable. 

It was not a sudden conversion, a miraculous transformation 
of character; it was a simple ripening. To outward appearances 
John Reed was just what he had always been. He could still, to 
the delight and despair of his friends, be madly irresponsible. He 
was by no means purged of vanity. There would even be mo- 
ments of doubt, of longing for old certainties instead of new 
convictions and old comforts in place of new hardships. But 
fundamentally John Reed had found himself. Every question 
that tortured him when he wrote “Almost Thirty” was an- 
swered. He had a pirrpose, and it could be fulfilled. 


He knew that the revolution was not over: “It has just begun,” 
he wrote the Masses on November 17. “For the first time in his- 
tory the working class has seized the power of the state for its 
own purposes — and means to keep it. As far as any one can see, 
there is no force in Russia to challenge the Bolshevik power. 
And yet, as I write this, in the flush of their success, the new- 
born revolution of the proletariat is ringed round with a vast fear 
and hatred. The proletarian revolution has no friends except the 

For a week after the defeat of Kerensky, Reed watched the 
struggles of the Bolsheviks to make their new government func- 
tion. While the Council of People’s Commissars hammered at 
the scaffolding of the Socialist order, strikes of government em- 
ployees crippled every department of the government. OflEces 
were locked and buildings unheated; funds were taken. And in 
the ranks of the Bolsheviks themselves there was opposition to 
Lenin’s adamant refusal to compromise. The suppression of the 
bourgeois press led to the resignation of five commissars, and 
Kamenev, Zinoviev, and three other members resigned from the 
Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. Instantly delegates 
poured in from factories and the front, denouncing the deserters. 
“There is not a shadow of hesitation in the masses of Petrograd, 
Moscow, and the rest of Russia,” Lenin had said in attacking the 
resignations, and he was proved right. 

From Moscow came stories of barbaric destruction, and on 
the twenty-first of November Reed and Louise Bryant decided 
to go to see for themselves. They were given passes, and went 
to the station to wait patiently for the train. When at last it 
came, hundreds of soldiers, carrying huge sacks of food, stormed 
the doors, smashed the windows, and crowded into the compart- 
ments. Discovering that Reed and Louise Bryant were American 
Socialists, they left them room. All through the night soldiers 
argued in the corridors, and those on the roof sang songs and 
kicked their heels to keep warm. The train was hours late, and it 
was not until noon the next day that a peasant-woman appeared 
with bread and a coffee-substitute. Whenever the train stopped 
at the station, there was a raid on the buffet. Once Reed caught 


a glimpse of Nogin and Rykov, seceding commissars who were 
returning to Moscow. 

The station was deserted, and the man in charge, whom they 
went to see about tickets for their return, was anti-Bolshevik— 
overlooked in the turmoil of the city’s capture. There was not a 
cab in sight, but they finally found a sleigh, whose driver agreed 
to carry them to the hotel for fifty times the usual fee. “It takes 
a good deal of courage to drive a sleigh nowadays,” he ex- 
plained. The snow-piled streets were quiet, but there were sheU- 
holes and ruined buildings. One hotel after another was full, but 
at last the big Hotel National took them in, chiefly because the 
Military Revolutionary Committee had promised to protect for- 
eigners and the manager thought he would be safer for their 

They went to the headquarters of the Moscow Soviet in the 
palace of the former governor-general. In one room fifty women 
were cutting and sewing streamers and banners for the funeral 
of the revolutionary dead. In the hall Reed met Melnichansky, 
whom he had known in Bayoime as George Melcher, a watch- 
maker. Melnichansky, who was secretary of the Moscow Metal- 
Workers’ Union, told Reed about the bloody six-day battle. The 
City Duma had led the junkers and White Guards. It was the 
mayor who had advised the occupation of the Kre mlin , arguing 
that the Military Revolutionary Committee would not dare to 
bombard the sacred building. The counter-revolution had been 
better organized than in Petrograd, and the soviets less disci- 
plined. It had taken a long time to bring the masses into action, 
and the losses had been great. 

In the evening the Moscow Bolsheviks met at the Nobles’ 
Qub to listen to Nogin and Rykov explain why they had left 
the Council of Commissars. The intellectuals were obviously 
with them, but the workers burst out in jeers and angry shouts. 
Bukharin, short, red-bearded, with the eyes of a fanatic, spoke 
against them, savage, logical, with a voice that plunged and 
struck. The workers applauded him and adopted the resolution 
to support the Council. 

Early the next morning Reed went to Skobeliev Square, 
where, in the pale half-light the Central Executive Committee of 


the Moscow Soviets waited with red banners. A vast stirring 
roar grew throughout the city. Dovra the Tverskaya, Reed and 
Louise Bryant marched under the great flags. The stores were 
closed, and the chapels were locked and dark. Reed noticed that 
the people with him did not cross themselves, as they passed the 
famous churches. In the crowded Red Square huge mounds of 
earth marked the trenches that volunteers had worked aU night 
to dig. A band began “The Internationale” as gigantic banners 
unrolled from the top of the Kremlin to the ground, red with 
great letters in gold and white that said “Martyrs of the Begin- 
ning of World Social Revolution” and “Long Live the Brother- 
hood of Workers of the World.” 

From the far quarters of the city workers of the different fac- 
tories came, bearing their dead in dull red cofiins, crude boxes 
made of rough wood and daubed with crimson. The men, many 
of them weeping, carried the coffins high on their shoulders, 
while behind them walked the women, sobbing or with white, 
dead faces. Some of the coffins were open, the lids carried be- 
hind them; others were covered with gilded or silvered cloth, or 
had a soldier’s hat nailed on top. There were many wreaths of 
hideous artificial flowers. 

The procession slowly moved through the crowd, while a 
band played the revolutionary funeral march, and against the 
immense singing of the mass of people, standing uncovered, the 
paraders sang hoarsely, choked with sobs. Behind the factory- 
workers came companies of soldiers with their coffins, squadrons 
of cavalry riding at salute, and artillery batteries with their can- 
non wound with red and black. The marchers came to the edge 
of the great grave, and the bearers clambered up with their bur- 
den and went down into the pit. All day long the funeral proces- 
sion passed, coming in by the Iberian Gate and leaving the square 
by way of the Nikolskaya, a river of red banners, bearing words 
of hope and brotherhood and stupendous prophecies. One by 
one five hundred coffins were laid in the pits, and at dusk, as 
fifty thousand people sang the funeral march, two hundred men 
began to shovel in the dirt. 

The next day Reed and Louise Bryant inspected the Kremlin, 
for rumors of Bolshevik destruction had reached Petrograd and 



were traveling around the world. In his notebook he set down. 
“No interior damage to churches-except Resurrection, where 
2 shell-holes in roof. Little Cathedral has porch hk by shell, 
frescos sprayed with brick-dust. Upper church hit by three 
shells, outside damaged. Ivan Veliki, one or two shells, negligible 
. . . Little Palace Church upper story smashed, some looting. 
Red monastery hit many times, window moldings (several) 
smashed and doors. Barricades of ammunition cases! Upper gate 
tower hit several times, ikon smashed . . . Tip lower tower 
knocked off. Spasskya tower hit by big shell square in the 
clock.” So he went about, surprised to find how little damage 
had been done. Yet even so the cost had been considerable: 
“ An gry priests,” he wrote down. “Angry bourgeois-artists, etc. 
Angry poor pious folks, crossing themselves as they look toward 
Kkemlin and muttering. Arguing angry groups on Red Square. 
And he trembled to think of the effect on Russia, where the 
story had gone forth that most of the Kjemlin was in ruins. 

Reed returned to Petrograd in time for the Peasants’ Congress, 
which had been called by the Council of People’s Commissars 
over the heads of the Executive Committee of the Peasants’ 
Soviets. The land decree had roused the peasants, and the return 
to the farms of thousands of revolutionary-minded peasant-sol- 
diers had sharpened the eagerness for change. Despite the protest 
of the executive committee, more than four hundred delegates 
went to Petrograd for the congress. The first sessions showed 
that the Left Socialist Revolutionaries controlled a majority of 
the delegates, whereas the Bolsheviks had less than a fifth. The 
old executive committee consented to open the congress, but 
subsequently withdrew in protest against the radicalism of the 
delegates. They were not radical enough, however, to accept 
Bolshevik leadership, and, when Lenin rose to speak on the third 
day of the congress, he was met with cries of abuse. 

Day after day Reed went between Smolny and the Peasants’ 
Congress in the Duma building. Snow had fallen, making the 
city seem light and wide. Smolny was a little calmer, despite the 
tenseness over the Peasants’ Congress. Each of its more than a 
hundred rooms was functioning as the meeting-place of some 


committee or department. Problems were gradually being solved. 
Counter-revolutionary forces were dwindling away. 

Everything depended on the Peasants’ Congress. Gradually its 
temper changed, and now Lenin was listened to with attention 
when he explained that the question of land could not be set- 
tled apart from the other problems of the revolution. Simply and 
clearly he showed how the interests of the land-owners were 
linked with those of the industrialists. “No compromise with the 
bourgeoisie is possible,” he said; “its power must be absolutely 
crushed.” Meanwhile the Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist Rev- 
olutionaries were holding a series of conferences, and at last an 
agreement was reached. When, on November 29, the union of 
the Peasants’ Soviets with the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviets was 
announced, the peasants poured forth from Alexander Hall, 
marching through the city to the music of “The Marseillaise.” 
When they came to the great white room in Smolny, in which 
the Executive Committee of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, 
together with the Petrograd Soviet and a thousand spectators, 
were waiting, a grand echoing roar greeted this new triumph 
of the revolution. 

There was still more than enough for a good reporter to see. 
Reed went one Sunday to the trial of the Countess Panina, for- 
merly Minister of Public Welfare, who had refused to turn 
over the funds of the department to her successor, Alexandra 
KoUontai. The trial was held in the music room of the Palace 
Nicolai Nicolaievitch, and two soldiers and a workman pre- 
sided. A worker spoke in favor of the countess, telling how she 
had taught him to read. Another worker, declaring this mere 
sentimentality, said the question was whether she had taken the 
money or not. The countess, speaking in her own defense, ex- 
plained that she felt no responsibility to the Council of People’s 
Commissars and would make her accounting to the Constituent 
Assembly. In the end she was sentenced “to return the money 
and then be liberated to the public contempt.” 

Another case came before the revolutionary tribunal, that of 
a soldier who had stolen money from a newspaper stand. He 
charged that the woman who owned it was a capitalist who sold 


counter-revolutionary as well as revolutionary papers. She main- 
tained that she was not a capitalist, for she stood in the cold for 
long hours to sell her papers and make a very little money, and, 
moreover, that she performed a valuable educational service. 
The president asked the crowd in the courtroom to decide, and 
they voted that the man should not be punished but should be 
compelled to give back the money he had taken. When he ad- 
mitted that the money was gone, the court ruled that he must 
give her something, and finally, at the suggestion of the crowd, 
she took his rubbers. 

But Reed was not satisfied to be merely a reporter. Imme- 
diately after the revolution a Bureau of International Revolu- 
tionary Propaganda, in charge of Boris Reinstein, was formed 
under the supervision of the Department of Foreign Affairs, 
with committees of Germans, Hungarians, Roumanians, and 
English-speaking men and women. With the assistance of the De- 
partment of War Prisoners and the Bureau of the Press, directed 
by Karl Radek, this group issued three papers: Die Packet, 
afterwards called Volkerfriede, to the Germans; Nemzetkesi 
Szocializta to the Hungarians; and Inainte to the Roumanians. 
These papers were carried to the trenches, where, in devious 
ways, they were distributed. Milli ons of copies of Die Packet 
were circulated, and eventually papers were published in half 
a dozen languages. 

Reed worked on Die Packet, and he and Albert Rhys Williams 
edited a weekly illustrated paper called Die Russiche Revotution 
in Bildem. The captions were of the simplest sort. A picture of 
the supreme revolutionary tribunal, for example, bore the leg- 
end: “This group of four workmen and three soldiers is now 
the highest court of justice in the Russian Republic. Most of 
them spent long years in prison because of revolutionary activ- 
ity. Now these common workmen and soldiers are themselves 
the judges of all those who have oppressed the people.” There 
were pictures of soldiers and sailors, of barricades in the street, 
and of the celebration of victory. A picture of a workman tear- 
ing down the imperial eagles from a building was captioned: “It 
is easy to overthrow autocracy. Autocracy rests on nothing but 
the blind obedience of soldiers.” A picture of soldiers in a palace 



was inscribed: “Here in Russia for the first time you can see 
workmen-soldiers, whose sweat and labor built the palace, whose 
blood was shed defending it, enjoying a palace as their home.” 

Reed was in the best of spirits, and, as usual when he was 
happy, he was full of ideas, many of them fantastic. When some 
one told him about a band of prospectors who were going to 
find a great cache of gold in Siberia, he was determined to join 
the expedition. When comrades from the Ukraine described 
the strike of intellectuals, Reed told W^iUiams that they must go 
at once to Kharkov and fill the vacant offices. Williams, he said, 
could be Commissar of Education, and, in view of his ecclesiasti- 
cal training, could have supervision of churches and religious 
affairs as well. For himself, he would be Commissar of Art and 

“What will you do?” Williams asked. 

“Oh, thousands of things,” Reed answered. “First of all, put 
joy into the people. Get up great pageants. Cover the city with 
flags and banners. And once or maybe twice a month have a 
gorgeous all-n^ht festival with fireworks, orchestras, plays in 
aU the squares, and everybody participating.” A day or two later 
he was laughing at the idea, but he still insisted that, terrible as 
conditions were, singing and dancing could do the revolution no 

Both of the young men were frequently asked to speak at 
public meetings, and there was one cold morning when they 
went to address a gathering of soldiers at the Cirque Modeme. 
As they came near the vast gray building, accompanied by Alex- 
andra KoUontai, they saw a black mass of j>eople around the 
doors. “Why don’t they let them in?” Williams asked. “There 
are fifteen thousand inside already,” KoUontai told him. Guided 
by her, they entered the hall, which was completely dark, for 
there was no coal in Petrograd to operate the power plant. 
Reed peered out from the platform, and it seemed to him that 
the place was empty, but when WilUams began, “Comrades! I 
speak for the American Socialists,” there was a deafening cry of 
“Long live the International!” 

Reinstein was proud of his your^ assistants, but, after his 
years in the labor movement, their ignorance occasionaUy amused 


and distressed him. When he lamented their inexperience and 
their failure to study Marx, Reed would poke fun at the Social- 
ist Labor Party. “How many members are there?” he would 
ask. “Three-and-a-half or four.” And once, when Reinstem was 
introduced as “a leader of the powerful Socialist Labor Party in 
America,” Reed burst into a guffaw. 

In the Reeds’ apartment American sympathizers frequently 
gathered. The apartment was bare and often cold, and some- 
times, when food was scarce, Reed would start a fire on the 
tiled floor of the bathroom and heat up a can of soup for the 
guests to eat. The most common subject of discussion was the 
possibility of getting American aid for the Soviets. Colonel 
Robins, though completely opposed to Bolshevik principles, be- 
Heved that the regime should be allowed to go its own way, and 
he saw no reason why trade relations should not be established 
with America. With this idea in mind, Reed interviewed both 
Bolshevik and Left Socialist Revolutionary leaders, and pre- 
pared a skeleton report, which he submitted to Robins. After 
pointing out that trade relations would have to be subject to the 
conditions of a country that was building Socialism, he listed 
some of the immediate needs of the Soviets, especially ma- 
chinery, canned food, shoes, and clothes. A policy of real, mate- 
rial help, he argued, would build a strong friendship for America. 
He closed by saying, “We American Socialists are going to or- 
ganize here shortly, and I think you could help America if you 
would cooperate with us.” 

It was still a period when it seemed that anything, so far as 
America was concerned, might happen. Although Ambassador 
Francis was having him shadowed, Reed went in and out of the 
embassy like any other American citizen. There were relatively 
few Americans in Petrograd, and, however strongly they dis- 
agreed, they went through the formalities of friendship. When, 
for instance. Colonel Robins gave a Christmas dinner, he invited 
Louise Bryant, Reed, and other Socialists, members of the diplo- 
matic staff, and representatives of American busmess firms. So it 
happened that Reed found himself sitting beside a Tammany 
politician who had become a war profiteer, a man violently op- 
posed to the revolution and quite incapable of understanding it. 


In the clash between them Reed caught a glimpse of what he 
would have to face when he returned to America, and any hopes 
of American sympathy for the new order dwindled. 

As SOON as Reed heard of the Masses indictment, he resolved 
to return in time for the trial, but he received word that it 
had been postponed, and he decided to wait for the convening 
of the Constituent Assembly. One of the first promises of the 
provisional government had been the democratic election of a 
legislative body, but it was a promise Kerensky had been loath 
to fulfill. Delay had followed delay, but after the Bolshevik 
seizure of power, the hberals and moderate Socialists began to 
insist that the Constituent Assembly must be held. The Bolshe- 
viks agreed, but from the first they pointed out that the election 
could not take into account the changes brought about by the 
seizure of power. The ballots, for example, lumped all Socialist 
Revolutionaries together, ignoring the fact that the party was 
now divided into three factions, of which only one supported 
the new regime. It was the Socialist Revolutionaries who, thanks 
to their strength among the peasants, had the largest number of 
delegates, but there was no way of telling whether, in electing 
these delegates, the peasants were voting for or against the Coun- 
cil of People’s Commissars. 

The Constituent Assembly met on January 18, 1918. The 
Tauride Palace, in which the session was held, was surrounded 
by Red Guards and revolutionary soldiers and sailors. Sverdlov 
appeared, just as the assembly was to begin, and read a declara- 
tion of Soviet principles. Th^ the assembly refused to consider, 
and the Bolshevik delegates left. The session lasted throughout 
the night of the eighteenth, with constant and boisterous inter- 
ruptions by the soldiers and sailors in the gallery. The assembly 
passed a land decree, approved with qualifications the armistice 
with Germany, and proclaimed Russia a democratic federative 
republic. As Chernov, early on the morning of the nineteenth, 
was reading the decree on land, the commandant of the palace, 
a sailor, stepped forward. Pointing to the empty seats of the 
Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, he said, “You 
fellows had better go home. The rest have gone. The guard is 


getting tired.” Half an hour later the Constituent Assembly ad- 
journed, never to meet again. 

The next day the Central Executive Committee of the All- 
Russian Soviets proclaimed the dissolution of the Constituent 
Assembly. Reed, examining the committee’s statement, was con- 
vinced that it marked the death of old-fashioned representative 
democracy. The fact that nowhere in Russia, not even among 
the peasants who had elected the Sociahst Revolutionary major- 
ity, were strong objections raised proved to him that the Bol- 
sheviks were right in regarding the soviets as the poHtical form 
for the workers’ state. The Constituent Assembly, because it 
could not keep abreast of the changes in popular sentiment, 
would have become, if it had been tolerated, a center of counter- 
revolution. Its convening had been necessary to demonstrate this 
fact to the masses of workers, soldiers, and peasants; that the 
demonstration had been conclusive acquiescence in its dissolu- 
tion showed. The soviets, deeply rooted in the factories, the 
trenches, and the fields, were the expression of the people’s will. 

Louise Bryant left for the United States on January 20, but 
Reed remained for another fortnight. On the twenty-third, the 
third All-Russian Congress of Soviets was opened. In the first 
congress, which had met June 16, the moderate Socialists had 
been in the majority. The second congress, meeting November 
7, had approved the Bolshevik seizure of power. The third con- 
gress met to consider the problems of preserving the revolution 
and putting its principles into action. 

Reed, Reinstein, and Williams were invited to attend the con- 
gress, and they drew lots to determine which would be the 
spokesman. Williams was the one selected, but, after he had 
expressed the greetings of the American Socialists, Reed de- 
cided that he also wanted to speak. Reinstein introduced him in 
Russian, saying that he was returning to face trial, with the other 
editOK of the Masses, under the espionage law. Reed, after the 
indignant cries that followed Reinstein’s aimouncement, stood 
up, and there was loud applause. He spoke first of the satisfac- 
tion and courage he would draw, on Ifis return to the kingdom 



of capitalism, from the victory of the proletariat in Russia. 
Then he paid tribute to the revolutionary martyrs, spoke of the 
significance of the soviets as a new form of government, and 
promised to devote himself, on reaching America, to telling the 
story of the revolution. 

Perhaps one reason for Reed’s eagerness to speak was the 
warning he had received from Edgar Sisson. Sisson, formerly 
editor of Hearst’s Comiopolitan, had come to Russia for George 
Creel’s Committee of Public Information, and, while ostensibly 
devoting himself to distributing Wilson’s speeches and other- 
wise legally propagandizing for the United States, had actually 
spent hk time in spying on the Bolsheviks, with the aid of both 
the American and the British intelligence services and the nu- 
merous groups of counter-revolutionaries. Sisson had threatened 
Reed a few days earlier because he had done patrol duty in front 
of the Foreign Office, and had told him that he must not take 
any part in Bolshevik activities. He was in the audience at the 
Tauride Palace when Reed spoke, and he sputtered to his 
friends about madness and treason. 

A few days later Sisson was given more cause for worry, for 
Reed’s appointment as consul to New York was announced. He 
had asked that he might be made a courier, as Louise Bryant 
had been, so that his notes and papers would be safe, and Trotsky 
had thereupon proposed the consulship. Meeting Amo Dosch- 
Fleurot, a newspaper man, Reed expressed his joy in the indigna- 
tion the appointment would arouse. There was some serious dis- 
cussion, in the course of which Dosch-Fleurot predicted that 
Reed would be arrested. “Perhaps it’s the best thing I can do to 
advance the cause,” Reed said. Then, with a grin, he hitched up 
his trousers and said, “When I am consul I suppose I shall have 
to marry people. I hate the marriage ceremony. I shall simply 
say to them, ‘Proletarians of the world, unite!’ ” 

Washington indignandy informed the press that Reed would 
have no official standing. The Call applauded the appointment 
and ironically suggested that Theodore Roosevelt and Charles 
Edward RusseU be appointed a welcoming committee. It also 
printed a tribute to Reed by Max Eastman. “John Reed’s ap- 


pointment as consul general in his own country by the Bolshe- 
viki,” Eastman wrote, “is the most beautiful and astute expres- 
sion they have yet given to the international character of the class 
struggle and the social revolution. In his own country, John 
Reed has been proscribed by the respectables and indicted by 
the courts as a traitor. He will present his credentials from the 
sovereign proletariat of Russia to a bourgeois government that 
has plans already on foot to put him in jail . . . John Reed was 
bom to fill a high place in revolutionary times. He is one of the 
few universal men— the men who combine that arrant imagina- 
tion and headstrong will of adventure which are the attributes 
of poetic genius, with a diligent and real power to achieve and 
understand. There is nothing that needs to be done, either in the 
technical routine of a consul general’s office or in the extraor- 
dinary and delicate duties of a revolutionary emissary that John 
Reed is not abundantly equipped to do. . . . Starting off with 
brilliant emotions, perceptions, and word combinations in his 
mind, I have watched him add to these native gifts the habit of 
verification and clear analytic understanding. And I know that 
his history— the intimate history— of those great days at Petro- 
grad will be a light in the world’s literamre.” 

Meanwhile the American officials in Petrograd were begin- 
ning to act. Ambassador Francis asked Colonel Robins to try to 
persuade the soviet government to withdraw the appointment. 
Sisson asked Gumberg to see what he could do, and Gumberg 
did his best. Apparently it was brought to Lenin’s attention that 
Reed had at some time considered a proposal to edit an official 
American propaganda newspaper in Russia, and this was inter- 
preted to mean that he had been secretly bargaining with the 
capitalists while claiming to be a supporter of the Soviets. How- 
ever it came about, the appointment was canceled, and Reed was 
greatly disappointed. Sisson had assured him that the Bolsheviks 
were merely trying to exploit his reputation, and Reed had re- 
plied that, if his reputation would do the Bolsheviks any good, 
he was satisfied. What he saw in the appointment was a recogni- 
tion that pleased him and an opportunity for a dramatic gesture 
of a kind that he enjoyed. If, however, his services were to be 
of a different sort, he would still be able to serve. 


Reed left Russia early in February. The best Francis would do 
for him was to give him a letter authorizing passport control 
officers and censors to pass him without examining his papers 
until he reached the United States, where, the letter said, his 
possessions would be thoroughly scrutinized. Sisson took more 
drastic steps, and, as a result of his interference, Reed was de- 
tained in Christiaiiia. He arrived there on February 19, expecting 
to sail on February 22, but the consul informed him. that he had 
been instructed by the State Department not to visa his pass- 
port. He was not under arrest, but he could not proceed. Since 
the next boat from Christiania to New York did not sail until 
April, he rented a room and impatiently set to work on his his- 
tory of the revolution. 

On February 25 he received two cablegrams. One read, “Don’t 
return, await instructions. Steffens Louise Reed.” The other: 
“Trotsky making epochal blunder doubting Wilson literal sin- 
cerity. I am certain President will do whatever he asks other 
nations to do. If you can and will change Trotsky’s and Lenin’s 
attitudes you can render historical international service. Stef- 

Steffens was upset because Russia had, on February 19, offered 
to agree to the terms of peace proposed by Germany at Brest- 
Litovsk. The negotiations, which had begun on December 22, 
had revealed more and more clearly the German intention to 
seize as much as possible of the former Russian Empire. By the 
end of January the Bolshevik leaders were divided into three 
groups: Lenin, Stalin, Kamenev, and Zinoviev favored an imme- 
diate peace; Bukharin and others wanted the proclamation of a 
revolutionary war against Germany; Trotsky proposed a kind 
of passive resistance. Negotiations were broken off on February 
10, and on February 18, the German army moved against 
Dvinsk and Reval. Lenin’s view prevailed, and a dispatch was 
sent to Berlin. 

Steffens, in common with many anti-war liberals and a certain 
number of radicals, believed that Russian capitulation would be 
a catastrophe. They felt that, since the rise of the Bolsheviks, 
the defeating of Germany was a revolutionary duty. Wilson’s 
fourteen-point speech, which had actually been brought forth 


by Sisson’s plea for plausible propaganda that would keep Rus- 
sia in the war, seemed to hold out the hope for an agreement 
between the Soviet government and the Alhes. Trotsky had 
hinted to Bruce Lockhart that, if the Allies would recognize the 
Soviets and aid them, he would prevent Russia from signing the 
separate peace. Lenin saw that it was impossible to expect the 
Russian armies to keep on fighting, realized that the Alhes could 
not send any considerable assistance, and completely distrusted 
their intentions. He did not like the terms proposed by Ger- 
many, but he preferred them to war. 

Reed had no doubt of the wisdom of Lenin’s position. He 
cabled Steffens that, if a group of revolutionary leaders, includ- 
ing Eugene Debs and Bill Haywood, asked him to, he would go 
back to Petrograd and see what he could do; otherwise he would 
not. He knew that he was safe, and in any case it was too late. 
Athough the Germans had replied to the Russian offer by im- 
posing even more drastic terms, Lenin, on February 23, delivered 
his personal ultimatum to the Council of People’s Commissars, 
and on March 3 the Brest-Litovsk treaty was signed. 

With the exception of the cablegram she signed with Steffens, 
everything Louise Bryant wrote Reed was intercepted, and only 
one of his letters reached her. In this letter, written on March 
27, he told of the arrival of Robert Minor, and the joy that he 
expressed at having some direct word from his wife and from 
his friends in America showed how trying his isolation had been. 
Even then he did not know when he would be allowed to re- 
turn; indeed, he was ready to believe that he was permanently 
exiled. Of Steffens’ plan he said, “From my viewpoint it looks 
absolutely ridiculous.” His own situation he barely touched 
upon: “I am working very hard on my book ... I am selling 
some articles on Russia to local papers and also doing stenog- 
raphy.” He had appealed to the American Minister, saying that, 
since he was detained against his will, the government should 
pay his expenses, but he had no hope of success. 

He had already written an introduction for the book he 
planned to do on the revolution. It was, as much as anything 
else, an interpretation to himself. “It is difficult,” he wrote, “for 
the bourgeoisie— and especially so for the foreign bourgeoisie— 



to understand the ideas that move the Russian masses. It is all 
very easy to say that they have no sense of patriotism, duty, 
honor, that they do not submit to discipline, or appreciate the 
privileges of democracy; that, in short, they are incapable of 
self-government. But in Russia all these attributes of the bour- 
geois democratic state have been replaced by a new ideology. 
There is patriotism— but it is allegiance to the international 
brotherhood of the working class; there is duty, and men die 
cheerfully for it— but it is duty to the revolutionary cause; there 
is honor, but it is a new kind of honor, based on the dignity of 
human life and happiness rather than on what a fantastic aris- 
tocracy of blood and wealth has decreed is fitting for ‘gentle- 
men’; there is discipline— revolutionary discipline, as I hope to 
show in these pages; and the Russian masses are showing them- 
selves not only capable of self-government but of inventing a 
whole new form of civilization.” 

But what he was most concerned with writing during his two 
months in Sweden was not his history of the revolution— that 
could and would have to wait. Most of his energy went into a 
poem, the longest he had ever written and the last, with the ex- 
ception of a few hastily scribbled lyrics, he was to write. It was 
America that inspired the poem, his America, the America he 
loved as distinguished from the America he hated. At last he 
knew himself, knew where he stood and what he wanted, and 
the old tenderness came back. He had suppressed it when it 
seemed likely to betray him into the hands of the eagle-scream- 
ing patriots. Now that his position was clear, he could give voice 
to hk emotions and, from his exile, sing the song of America. 

He began: 

Across the sea my country, my America 
Girt with steel, irird-glittering with power. 

As a champion, with great voice trumpeting 
High words, “For Liberty . . . Democracy . . .” 

Deep within me something stirs, answers— 

(My country, my America!) 

As if alone in the high and empty night 
She called me— my lost one, my first lover 
I love no more, love no more, love no more . . . 


And he went on to tell how he knew his America: 

By my free boyhood in the wide West, 

The powerful sweet river, fish-wheels, log-rafts, 

Ships from behind the sunset, Lascar-manned, 

Chinatown, throbbing with mysterious gongs. 

The blue thunderous Pacific, blaring sunsets. 

Black smoking forests on surf-beaten headlands, 

Lost beaches, camp-fires, wail of hunting cougars . . . 

By the rolling range, and the flat sunsmitten desert, 

Night with coyotes yapping, domed with burst of stars, 

The gray herd moving eastward, towering dust. 

Ropes whistling in slow coils, hats flapping, yells . . . 

By miles of yellow wheat rippling in the Chinook, 

Green-golden orange-groves and snow-peaks looming over . . . 
By raw audacious cities sprung from nothing. 

Brawling and bragging in their careless youth . . . 

I know thee, America! 

Almost without thinking, he swung into the long, rolling 
rhythms of Walt Whitman as he sang the America that Whit- 
man had loved: 

Fishermen putting out from Astoria in the foggy dawn their double- 
bowed boats. 

Lean cow-punchers jogging south from Bums, with faces burned 
leathery and silent 

Stringy old prospectors trudging behind reluctant pack-horses across 
the Nevada alkali . . . 

He went on with his saga: 

By my bright youth in golden eastern towns . . . 
Harvard . . . pain of growing, ecstasy of unfolding, 

Thrill of books, thrill of friendship, hero-worship. 
Intoxication of dancing, tempest of great music. 

Squandering delight, &st consciousness of power . . . 

When he came to New York, he forgot Whitman and spoke 
with the tones of his old love, Christopher Marlowe: 



Manhattan, zoned with ships, the cruel, 

Youngest of all the world's great towns, 

Thy bodice bright with many a jewel, 

Imperially crowned with crowns . . . 

Who that hath known thee but shall bum 
In exile till he come again 
To do thy bitter wiU, O stem 
Moon of the tides of men! 

But he went back to Whitman to tell of the city, the deep ex- 
citement it always roused in him shining through, as it shone 
through in his essay, “Almost Thirty.” He spoke of Fifth 
Avenue, “Peacock Street, street of banners”; of Broadway, 
“gashing the city like a lava-stream”; of Greenwich Village, 
“battle-ground of all adolescent Utopias.” Like Whitman, he 
wanted the reader to know that he was part of aU this: 

In dim Roumanian wme-cellars I am not unwelcome, 

Pulsing with hot rhythm of scornful gypsy fiddlers . . . 

In Grand Street coffee-rooms, haunt of Yiddish philosophers, 
Novelists reading aloud a new chapter, collecting a dime from each 

Playwrights dramatizing the new^per headlines, poets dumb to 
deaf America . . . 

Dear and familiar and unforgettable is the city 
As the face of my mother . . . 

Have I omitted you, truck-quaking West Street, dingy Death 

Gracious old Qiurch of the Sea and Land, Inwood, tip of Man- 

The rag shops of Minetta Lane, and the yelping swkl of the Broad 
Street Curb, 

Macdougal Alley, gilded squalor of fashionable artists, 

Coenties Slip, old sea-remembering notch at the back of down- 

Nay, acro^ the world, three thousand miles away, without map or 


Ask me and I will describe them and their people. 

In all weathers, drunk or sober, by sun and moon . . . 

I have watched the summer day come up from the top of a pier of 
the Williamsburg Bridge, 

I have slept in a basket of squid at the Fulton Street Market, 

Talked about God with the old cockney woman who sells hot-dogs 
under the Elevated at South Ferry, 

Listened to the tales of dago dips in the fainily parlor of the Hell- 

And from the top gallery of the Metropolitan heard Didur sing 
“Boris Godounov.” 

Dear and familiar and ever-new to me is the city 
As the body of my lover . . . 

All professions, races, temperaments, philosophies. 

All history, aU possibilities, all romance, 

America . . . the world . . . ! 

Six months in revolutionary Russia— not predictably an expe- 
rience to bring a poet to maturity. Yet “America, 1918,” begun 
in Petrograd, most of it written in Christiania, finished in New 
York, was as much a product of Reed’s participation in the Bol- 
shevik revolution as was Ten Days That Shook the World. It 
was an affirmation of love of country, bom out of recognition 
that that country could be made worthy of love. Reed was 
returning with not merely the hope but the expectation that the 
United States would, in some not very distant time, follow Rus- 
sia’s example. It would become a nation that he could respect 
and serve. He was no longer afraid of it, and the poem was the 
expression of hope and love. 

It was not the America of the future Reed sang but the 
America he had actually known. Like Whitman, he hailed the 
future in the present. The poetry of revolutionary straggle was 
yet to be written— and, as it happened, not by him. But he had 
conquered at last the confusions and reticences and false tradi- 
tions that had circumscribed him. This was poetry in which the 
whole John Reed, and not some romantic fragment of him, 
lived and spoke. 


America, 1918 

O N April 28, 1918, exactly five years after his arrest in 
Paterson, John Reed reached what the Times, with mili- 
tary secretiveness, called in its dispatch *‘an Atlantic 
port.” The port was, of course. New York. Being under indict- 
ment in the Masses case, he was met by federal agents, who held 
him on board for more than eight hours, while they searched his 
baggage and clothes. His pa^rs were seized, but he was finally 
liberated after Morris HiUquit had promised that he would be 
at the Federal Building the next morning. Louise Bryant had 
waited for him from the time the boat docked, early in the 
morning, and together they went in a cab to the Brevoort. The 
next day he appeared before Judge Rufus E. Foster, with Dud- 
ley Field Malone as his counsel, and bail was fixed at $2000. 

It was a clear warning to John Reed that wartime America 
was no place for the writing of poetry; there were other things 
that had to be done first. A year of war had successfully infected 
the majority of the American people with hysteria. Day after 
day they had read in the papers that Germans were beasts who 
must be destroyed. Sunday after Sunday ministers of the gospel 
had preached the crusade. Moving pictures and plays portrayed 
the frightfulness of the enemy and the heroic ideali^ of the 
American soldier, and between the acts four-minute men con- 
verted sentiment into cash. Education almost ceased that chil- 
dren might listen to tales of Hun atrocities or participate in 
liberty loan. Red Cross, war saving stamp, or Y-M.C.A. cam- 

It was no wonder that the slightest opposition to war roused 



the craelest of passions. Many of Reed’s friends had suffered. 
Conscientious objectors were beaten, set at exhausting labor, and 
underfed. Wobbhes had been mobbed, tarred and feathered, 
lynched. Pacifist preachers had been driven from their parishes, 
some with whips and clubs. Persons of remotely German parent- 
age were suspected of espionage and subjected to the machina- 
tions of amateur detectives as well as the jeers of self-righteous 
patriots. Workmen who refused to buy liberty bonds lost their 
jobs and found themselves blacklisted. Mild critics of the war 
had their houses splashed with yellow paint, and were forced 
by frenzied vigilantes to kiss the flag. Madness was not even 
chastened, as it had long since been in Europe, by the somber 
thought of death, for American casualties had only been suffi- 
cient to titillate popular passions. Insanity prevailed, and war- 
profits grew. 

Reed had left Russia with every intention of arriving in time 
for the Masses trial, but Mr. Sisson and the State Department 
had interfered. The trial began on April 1 5, and the day before 
Reed reached New York the prisoners were freed by a hung 
jury. Eastman, Dell, Merrill Rogers, Art Young, Josephine Bell, 
Glintenkamp, and Reed, together with the Masses Publishing 
Company, had been charged with conspiring to promote insub- 
ordination and mutiny in the military and naval forces of the 
United States and to obstruct recruiting and enlistment to the 
injury of the service. The first part of the indictment was 
quashed by Judge Hand, but the second stood. 

Reed could, of course, understand why the government would 
not permit criticism of its conduct. What amazed him was the 
tremendous effort that was made to preserve the fiction of legal- 
ity. All the ingenuity of the prosecution, he discovered, had been 
devoted to an attempt to prove that the editors had quite literally 
conspired, had got together one day and said, “Go to, now, we 
will obstruct recruiting and enlistment to the injury of the serv- 
ice.” The fantastic nature of the case was underscored by the 
fact that he personally had been indicted for the simple head- 
line he had put over a clipping from the Herald, “Knit a Strait- 
Jacket for Your Soldier Boy.” For ten days the legal battle had 

AMERICA, 1918 305 

gone on; for two days the jurors had argued; and then, on April 
27, the jury had been discharged and the first Masses trial ended. 

As soon as he had an opportunity to look about him, what im- 
pressed Reed, next to the prevalence of hysteria, was the interest 
in Russia. In spite of the patriotic indignation that had been 
whipped up when the Brest-Litovsk treaty was signed, in spite 
of the legend that all radicals and Bolsheviki in particular were 
German spies, people wanted to know what had happened. His 
first statement, published in the Call on May i, emphasized the 
fight of the Bolsheviks against German as weU as Russian im- 
perialism. He followed it with a statement in the Liberator, dis- 
posing of current myths about Bolshevik terrorism and briefly 
describing the aims of the Soviet regime. He ended with an ac- 
count of what the revolution had taught him; “That in the last 
analysis the property-owning class is loyal only to its own prop- 
erty. That the property-owning class will never readily com- 
promise with the working class. That the masses of the workers 
are not only capable of great dreams but have in them the power 
to make dreams come true.” 

But Reed soon found that written messages were not enough. 
People were demanding to hear him speak. As soon as his legal 
status was clarified— his papers were held but he was released, 
his appearance at the second Masses trial having been secured by 
bail— he began his long series of speeches. He spoke first at the 
meeting, held on May 9, to celebrate the end of the Masses trial. 
The next night, with Hillquit and Santeri Nuorteva, at the time 
representative of the Finnish People’s Republic, he spoke at a mass 
meeting on behalf of free Finland. A week later, after a vain trip 
to Washington to try to secure his papers, he addressed the 
James ConnoUy Socialist Qub. On the eighteenth, in Carnegie 
Hall, he defended the Bolshevik attitude towards the moderate 
Socialists. His meeting at the Star Casino on the twenty-third 
filled the aisles and the window-sills. On the twenty-sixth he was 
guest of honor at a dinner for the Call. 

So it went, and it was not in New York alone that he was 
wanted. He spoke in Tremont Temple, Boston, -with Harry 
Dana as chairman, and kept an organized group of reactionaries, 
mostly Harvard students, in check with his humor and his solid 


marshaling of facts. On June i, he was scheduled to speak in 
Philadelphia, but, when he arrived, he learned that the permit 
had been revoked. He walked down to the hall and found five 
hundred persons outside the locked doors. Leading them to a 
quiet street, away from traffic, he began to speak. Immediately 
a police lieutenant rushed up and kicked away the box on which 
he was standing. Reed protested that he was breaking no law, 
and that, if he was, he should be arrested. Two policemen took 
him to the station-house in a car. Meanwhile a Finnish shipyard 
worker named Kogerman was hit by a zealous policeman. When 
he wanted to know why he had been hit, the policemen gave him 
a thorough beating and arrested him. Kogerman was accused of 
assaulting four policemen, urging the crowd to rescue Reed, and 
resisting arrest. Reed was charged with disobeying a municipal 
ordinance, inciting to riot, and inciting to seditious remarks. 
Bail was fixed at $1500, but, at the request of a man from the 
district attorney’s office, was raised to $5000. The same amount 
was set for Kogerman, and Reed helped him to raise it. Trial 
was postponed till fall. 

One June 4 Reed spoke in the Bronx, on June 6 in Newark, 
on June 7 in Brooklyn. There were more than two thousand 
people in his audience at the Bronx, and he took off his coat, 
rolled up his blue shirt-sleeves, and talked to them for two 
hours. He described the shop-committees and the sabotage of 
the managers, told how the soviets worked, and gave examples 
of Bolshevik propaganda in the German army. At Newark, just 
as he was about to begin his address, the crowd rose and sang 
“The Marseillaise.” Reed cried “Long live the social revolution” 
in Russian. 

On the twelfth he was in Detroit. Moose Hall was filled with 
people, many of them Russians. James Couzens, recently made 
police commissioner, sat near the platform with the representa- 
tives of the Department of Justice, and his officers were in every 
part of the haU. The meeting was subdued by such a display of 
force, but when Reed rose and began “Tovarischi,” the applause 
thundered forth. All evening the halifuU of people kept him 
there, in their eagerness to know what had happened in Russia. 
As the audience filed out, the police seized a hundred and fifty 

AMERICA, 1918 307 

men and women, chosen more or less at random, and held them 
aU night in a room of the Municipal Building with no sleeping 
accommodations and no toilet. 

Reed went home with Walter Nelson, who had presided at 
the meeting, and asked if he might stay a day or two. He was 
tired and spent most of the time in sleeping. Despite the great 
crowds at his meetings, he felt, he told Nelson, that the majority 
of Americans, especially the native-born, did not catch the sig- 
nificance of the revolution. It seemed to him that he must shake 
them out of their indifference, make them see that a new era 
of human history had begun. And, tired as he was, he hurried 
back to New York for another meeting, then to Worcester, and 
back to New York once more. Somehow the word must be 
carried to the American people. 

In the midst of aU this, he tried to make plans for the future. 
His first task was, he knew, to tell the story of the revolution, 
and he kept hammering away at the State Department so that 
he might get his notes and documents and start work on his 
book. But in the meantime, there was the question of earning a 
living. He was usually paid for his speeches, but the income was 
neither large nor dependable. Louise Bryant had syndicated her 
articles, and put them in a book. Six Red Months in Rjissia. The 
paying magarin es, however, were closed to Reed. Oswald Vil- 
krd was warned that the Nation would be suppressed if it 
printed anything of Reed’s. Collier’’ s took a story, put it in type, 
and then sent it back. Here was the finest reporter in the coun- 
try, with, the hugest story in the world, and during the whole 
of 1918 and 1919 he published nothing in a non-radical maga- 
zine except one brief article, “The Case for the Bolsheviki,” in 
the Independent. 

His fertile mind suggested many schemes, including a plan 
of doing movie scenarios. He had caught a glimpse of the propa- 
ganda possibilities of the films, and the idea occurred to him 
that, if he could get some sort of post, he might support him- 
self and at the same time lay tie foundation for work that could 
some day be done. He went so far as to make an appointment 


with Willard Mack, head of Goldwyn’s scenario department, 
but the movies were not looking for radicals. 

Another plan was suggested by Frank Harris, who was editing 
Pearson’s. Harris, Reed, and Floyd Dell, Harris suggested, would 
found a new magazine, to be called These States. Reed was in- 
terested enough to draw up a prospectus. The magazine, to con- 
form with Burleson’s censorship, would have to be non-political, 
but it would be “the best expression of uncorrupted American 
artists.” Harris finally withdrew his support, and Reed was 
forced to realize that such a magazine was as impossible in a 
nation at war as his scheme of propaganda movies. 

Much of the time he felt distressingly lonely. Professor Cope- 
land, whom he had seen on his trip to Boston, was friendly, but, 
as Reed said, “in a frame of mind that thinks no one is a he- 
man who hasn’t gone into naval aviation.” Realizing how Copey 
felt, and genuinely eager to spare him any trouble, Reed told 
him that they must stop corresponding. 

In Washington he met Marlen Pew, who had once been busi- 
ness manager of the Masses, and was now directing publicity for 
the war department. Reed looked out of the window of Pew’s 
office at marching soldiers and talked about the silly sheep in 
uniform. Pew assured him that life was what it was, and that it 
was absurd to ruin a career trying to change it. 

Even Steffens had no hope. Reed wrote him about the news- 
paper blacklist against him, about the holding of his papers, 
about his arrest in Philadelphia. His mother was lamenting his 
smirching of the family name, and his brother was sailing for 
France. Intervention in Russia seemed certain. It was an un- 
happy letter, as Reed apologetically recognized, but Steffens 
had only cold comfort for him. “You do wrong,” he wrote, “to 
buck this thing. In the first place, the war was inevitable; in the 
second place, the consequences of the war, its by-products, are 
normal and tjTpical; in the third place, the public mind is sick. 
This last is what I learned in my experiences with it. I gave pain. 
I tried to speak, always, with consciousness that an audience was 
in trouble, psychologically, and I was just as tender as I could 
be. But sometimes I saw that what I said cut like a surgeon’s 
knife into a sore place, and I was sorry. I must wait. You must 

AMERICA, 1918 309 

wait. I know it’s hard, but you can’t carry conviction. You 
can t plant ideas. Only feeHngs exist. I think it is undemocratic 
to try to do much now. Write, but don’t publish.” 

Such counsel bewildered Reed but could not stop him. On 
Independence Day he and Art Young were in Terre Haute to 
interview Eugene Debs. Debs had been arrested. A month be- 
fore, a rumor had been circulated that he was leaving the Social- 
ist Party . His answer was an eloquent, forthright statement in 
the Call, followed by a tour of the Middle West. Everywhere 
on the tour he had been threatened by police and vigilantes, and 
finally he had been arrested in Cleveland. 

Going through the rich trim Indiana country, Reed had the 
feeling that this was the real America, and Debs seemed the per- 
fect Middle-Westerner, shrewd, tender-hearted, eloquent, and 
indomitable. He was in bed when they got there, but he in- 
sisted on coming downstairs. He was gaunt and tall and seemed 
tired, but the warmth of his smile and the radiance of his whole 
person swept over them. He talked with charm such as Reed 
had never known, his face glowing, the words tumbling swiftly 
out of his mouth. He told about his trip, describing how he had 
outwitted the detectives watching hm in Cleveland. People 
celebrating the holiday went by and stared, with malice and 
fear, at the house. “Let’s go out on the porch and give them a 
good show,” Debs proposed; so they sat on the porch, with 
their coats off, and laughed at the uneasiness of the passers-by. 

It did Reed good to be there with Art Young and Gene Debs, 
these two men who miraculously combined courage with calm- 
ness and defiance with humor. What impressed Debs was thaf, 
in the face of such tremendous pressure from the patriots, oppo- 
sition to war refused to die. “If this can’t break them down,” he 
said, why then I know nothing can. Socialism’s on the way. 
They can’t stop it, no matter what they do.” And as they went 
down the steps, he wrung their hands and clapped their shoul- 
ders, sajdng— and loud enough so that the ne^hbors could hear 
—“Now you tell aU the boys everywhere who are making the 
fight. Gene Debs says he’s with you, all the way, straight 
through, without a flicker!” 

Two days later Reed ^ke in Cleveland, where Debs had 


been arrested. The city had been thoroughly terrorized by the 
American Protective League, made up of the younger, brighter 
capitalists. Spies were everywhere, and dictaphones were placed 
in the homes of suspected persons. Reed arrived in the city 
earlier than he had been expected, disconcerting police. Depart- 
ment of Justice operatives, and members of the Protective 
League. He gave his suitcase to a friend, who was pursued all 
over town and finally seized. The suitcase was broken open, 
though the detectives had no warrants, and Reed’s papers re- 
moved. When he complained to Department of Justice officials, 
they restored his property and assured him it was all a mistake. 

The armory was crowded and the meeting enthusiastic. After 
it was over, federal officers examined aU the men, holding those 
who did not have their military registration cards with them. 
Meanwhile, a group of twenty detectives and Protective League 
business men surrounded Reed on the platform. They yapped 
and snarled, but the agent of the Department of Justice said that 
Reed could leave town, since he could be arrested later if the 
stenographic record showed that he had committed treason. The 
leaguers, deeply disappointed, saw him leave for his hotel, es- 
corted by two policemen. “We got this place sewed up,” one of 
the officers said. “We know everything that’s going on about 
everybody in the place. You can’t eat your dinner in a restau- 
rant, you can’t go to a theatre, you can’t lay down to sleep, 
without we hear every word you utter.” 

Reed and Young went on to Chicago. Reed spoke at a big 
meeting in one of the theatres, and his classmate, Stuart Chase, 
who was working for the Federal Trade Commission, had him 
speak for the Fabian Club he had organized. But his chief pur- 
pose in Chicago was to report the I.W.W. trial. In the federal 
court-room, beneath pictures of the barons at Runnymede and 
Moses on Sinai, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis presided. “A 
wasted man with untidy white hair, an emaciated face in which 
two burning eyes are set like jewels, parchment sldn split by a 
crack for a mouth; the face of Andrew Jackson three years 
dead.” So Reed described him. “A fighter,” he said, “and a sport, 
according to his lights, and as just as he knows how to be.” And 
the prisoners: “One hundred and one lumber- jacks, har- 

AMERICA, 1918 311 

vest-hands, miners, editors; one hundred and one who beKeve 
that the wealth of the world belongs to him who creates it, 
and that the workers of the world shall take their own.” 

In the early morning the prisoners came over from Cook 
County Jab, where most of them had been rotting for three- 
quarters of a year, for bail had been set so high that only a few 
could be released. Reed knew some and came to know others 
—Haywood, Ralph Chaplin, Harrison George, George An- 
dreytchine, Charley Ashleigh. They crowded together inside 
the rail of the court-room, some reading papers, one or two 
asleep, some sitting, some standing up. Reed felt that there could 
not be gathered together in America one hundred and one jnen 
more fit to stand for the social revolution. Somehow the scene 
seemed familiar to him, and suddenly the explanation came: it 
was like a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the 
All-Russian Soviets in Petrograd. For a moment it seemed to him 
as if he were watching the Central Committee of American 
Soviets trying Kenesaw Mountain Landis for counter-revolution. 

Reed knew their stories, stories of a long war, a war against 
an enemy that had limitless power, gave no quarter, and obeyed 
none of the rules of civilised warfare— “the class struggle, the 
age-old guerrilla fight of the workers against the masters, world- 
wide, endless, but destined to end!” Lawrence, Paterson, Mesaba 
Range, Everett— these were the battle-fields on which the one 
hundred and one had learned to fight. All Reed’s old admiration 
for the I.W.W. came back. He thought of their singing and of 
Joe Hni, their beloved maker of songs. For seven months these 
men had been in jail, before the trial had begun. From the first 
day, the one issue had been the class struggle. Through the two 
months before Reed and Young came to Chicago, and for two 
months thereafter, strike-leaders, gunmen, rank-and-file workers, 
agitators, deputies, police, stool-pigeons, and secret service opera- 
tives filed through the court-room, building the story of the 
bloody war of the classes. Reed heard Frank Rogers teU of the 
Speculator mine fire and of the murder of Frank Little. He 
heard A. S. Embree describe the Arizona deportations. And he 
listened to an agricultural worker named Eggel: “Well, they 
grabbed us. And the deputy says, ‘Are you a member of the 


LW.W.?’ I says, 'Yes’; so he asked for my card, and I gave it to 
him, and he tore it up. He tore the other cards tip that the 
fellow-members along with me had, so this fellow-member says, 
'There is no nse tearing the card up, we can get duplicates.’ 
WeU,’ the deputy says, 'we can tear up the duplicates too.’ And 
this fellow-worker says, he says, 'Yes, but you can’t tear it out 
of my heart.’ ” 

Reed’s articles on Debs and the I.W.W. trial appeared in the 
September Liberator, and on a back page of the issue was a 

Dear Max; 

I’m going to have to resign as one of the contributing editors of 
the Liberator. Fve thought about it for a long time, and I make this 
decision not without emotion, remembering our long work together 
on the Masses. 

But I feel that I must take my name off the editorial page. The 
reason is, I cannot in these times bring myself to share editorial 
responsibility for a magazine which exists upon the sufferance of 
Mr. Burleson. 

Of course, this does not mean that I want to stop contributing 
to the Liberator. And in the happy day when we can caU a spade 
a spade without tying bunting on it, you will find me, as you have 
in the past, 

Yours for the Profound Social Change, 

John Reed. 

And with it was Eastman’s reply: 

Dear Jack: 

I haven’t a word of protest— only a deep feeling of regret. 

In your absence we all weighed the matter and decided it was 
our duty to the social revolution to keep this instrument we have 
created alive toward a time of great usefulness. You will help us 
with your writing and reporting, and that is all we ask. 

Personally I envy you the power to cast loose when not only a 
good de^ of the dramatic beauty, but also the glamor of abstract 
moral principle, is gone out of the venture, and it remains for us 
merely the most effective and therefore the right thing to do. 

Yours as ever. 

Max Eastman. 

AMERICA, 1918 313 

It was not a hasty decision on Reed’s part; it was not, as East- 
man implied, a grandiloquent gesture; it was not the result of a 
personal quarrel, though both Max Eastman and his sister Crys- 
tal, who was managing editor, felt that it was. Reed meant what 
he said and no more. Perhaps the talk with Debs and the sight 
of the I.W.W. prisoners had strengthened him. However that 
may be, he had determined not to follow the path of compro- 
mise. That some compromises were necessary he did not doubt; 
he had no craving for martyrdom. But he could not commit him- 
self, as the liberator was and had to be committed, to a dehberate 
policy of concessions and evasions. 

What Reed was looking forward to and what he knew he 
must keep himself free for was the actual organization of the 
revolutionary forces of America. From the first he had had this 
in mind, and had discussed plans with the Bolshevik leaders. 
Exactly what form the organization should take he did not 
know; he was not, after all, a labor leader or a revolutionary 
tactician; his relation to the movement had been merely that of 
a close sympathizer. But he had not addressed some forty or 
fifty meetings without discovering that there was a powerful 
sentiment for revolution. If there were timid reformers in the 
Socialist Party, there were also revolutionaries, and he wanted 
to be ready to help them. 

The time had not quite come for militant action, and while he 
waited, he continued to devote himself to the interpretation of 
Russia. Article followed article in the Liberator, and speech fol- 
lowed speech. In an article in the Call, he answered Herman 
Bernstein, who had begun attacking Russia in the New York 
Herald. On August 29, he spoke in Moline, Illinois, and on 
Labor Day in Chicago. His trial in Philadelphia was postponed, 
and his efforts to secure his papers from the government bore 
no fruit. He and Louise Bryant took a small apartment on 
Patchin Place, that they might have some foothold in the city, 
and often enough Reed came home to report that he was being 
followed by a detective. 

To many of his acquaintances Reed seemed bitter and head- 
strong. So many friends were embarrassed when he spoke to 
them at the Harvard Qub or avoided him on the street or took 


pains never to visit him that he became suspicious of almost 
every one. Always forthright and stubborn in the defense of 
his opinions, he became harsh and intolerant, for he saw every- 
where the wreckage that what passed as tolerance had made of 
integrity. And people who were glad of an excuse for dissociat- 
ing themselves from John Reed complained about his arrogance. 
The playboy, they said, had become conceited and humorless 
and dogmatic; they meant that he was dangerous. 

But there were satisfactions in the kind of life Reed was 
living. There was the almost pathetic gratitude of the great 
throngs of European-bom workers to whom he spoke, and there 
was his sense of solidarity with the handful of serious revolu- 
tionaries. BUi Haywood, after the conviction of the LW.W. in 
Chicago, wrote him from Cook County JaU, speaking as one 
comrade to another: “The big game is over; we never won a 
hand. The other fellow had the cut, shuffle, and deal all the 
time. But we wiU do better when we get organized and can tie 
them on the mdustrial ground.” Debs wrote: “I have read and 
been deeply moved by your fine article in the September Libera- 
tor. You write differently than any one else and your style is 
most appealing to me. There is a living something that breathes 
and throbs in all you say.” Charles Erskine Scott Wood, out in 
Portland, praised the Debs and I.W.W. articles and approved 
the resignation from the staff of the Liberator. Almost every 
day such letters came, not so often as the letters, anonymous 
and signed, of abuse, but often enough to make Reed know 
that he was not alone. 

On September 1 3, he spoke at Hunt’s Point Palace, where, fif- 
teen months before, he had wimessed the arrest of Emma Gold- 
man and Alexander Berkman. Four thousand persons crowded 
into the hall, and three thousand were turned away. His theme 
was intervention. He charged that the British had inspired the 
recent attempt to assassinate Lenin, that the Czecho-Slovaks 
had broken faith with the Soviets, and that Wilson could have 
prevented the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The next mo rning he was 
arrested and charged with m aking seditious utterances. Federal 
Attorney Barnes asked that bail be fixed at $r 0,000, but $5000 
was finally set. What irritated Reed more than anything else 

AMERICA, 1918 315 

were the reports in most of the papers that he had promised 
not to make any more speeches and the assertion in one of them 
that he had broken down in Commissioner Hitchcock’s office 
and cried. “As a rule,” he stated in the Call the next day, “I do 
not take the trouble to deny the lies of the capitalist press, but 
in this case I believe the stories are part of a deliberate scheme 
to discredit Socialist speakers in the eyes of the rank and file. 
In order not to burden my friends with heavier obligations on 
my behalf, I promised that in case no bail was fixed I would not 
make any public speeches until my hearing, which is fixed for 
tomorrow morning. Since bail of I5000 was fixed, I, of course, 
have made no promise not to speak. If people are to be im- 
prisoned for protesting against intervention in Russia or for 
defending the workers’ republic in Russia, I shall be proud and 
happy to go to jail.” 

The hearing finally took place on September 23, and Reed 
was indicted for “wilfully, knowingly, and feloniously uttering 
scurrilous and abusive language” about the Siberian expedition 
of American troops. According to the records of the Federal 
agents, he had said, “This intervention that I am talking to you 
about is not allowed to be spoken about here in any other way 
than the government wants it to be spoken about. But in every 
other country in the world, in France and in Italy, the inter- 
vention is characterized very boldly as a direct adventure of 

Reed was now under three indictments, the total bail amount- 
ing to $12,000. The preliminaries of the second Masses trial 
started on the day he was indicted for his Hunt’s Point Palace 
speech, and the trial itself began a week later. Reed had seen 
enough of the temper of the American people to know that the 
editors were in many ways fortunate: they aU came from old 
American stock; the judge was rather more lenient than most; 
it had never been possible to whip up in New York City the 
hysteria that dominated most smaller communities; and patriotic 
emotion, despite all the artificial stimulants, was beginning to 
slacken. Nevertheless, it was a fairly grim sort of humor that 


inspired him to say to Young, as they entered the court-room, 
“Well, Art, got your grip packed for Atlanta?” 

The drive was on for the fourth liberty loan, and as in the first 
trial there was a band in the City Hall Park that played the 
national anthem. Hillquit and Malone, the attorneys for the de- 
fense in April, were unable to serve, and Seymour Stedman came 
on from Chicago to take their place, assisted by Charles Recht 
and Walter NeUes. In the selection of the jury, class issues were 
sharply raised. Earl Barnes, the prosecuting attorney, insisted 
on questioning each talesman about his attitude towards Social- 
ism, and, naturally enough, Stedman objected to most of the 
men Barnes approved. Reed was at first, in spite of himself, a 
little shaken; the court seemed a relentless machine that would 
grind and grind and grind. But the selection of the jury became 
a kind of game, rather boring in the end, and he amused himself 
by making notes on the talesmen. There was one man who an- 
nounced that he didn’t know what Socialism was but opposed 
it. There was a cotton manufacturer, grown wealthy in the war, 
who loudly protested his impartiality. There was a German who 
was determined to prove his patriotism. And there was one 
juror about whom Reed wrote simply, “Son of a bitch.” 

At first the emphasis was chiefly on the question of con- 
spiracy, as it had been at the first trial, but gradually the issue 
sharpened, as the defendants took the stand and explained their 
position on the war. Reed was called to the stand on Octo- 
ber 3, and Stedman began his examination. Gradually he led 
Reed to the point at which he could talk about his war expe- 
riences. “I began to be a war correspondent in 1913,” he said, 
and up to the time I wrote that headline (“Knit a Strait-Jacket 
for Your Soldier Boy”) I had been in action some fifty-five 
times.” He spoke of Mexico— the siege of Torreon, the corpses 
piled high in the streets of Gomez, the death of his friends of La 

He grew pale and tense. He told of what he had seen at the 
Marne, in Serbia, in Gahcia. He described the German trench 
in which he spent a night: “We were in this trench, up to our 
waists in running water; in the back of the trenches, where it 
was dighdy drier, were dugouts, where the men lived four or 

AMERICA, 1918 317 

five days before they were taken back for rest. And the walls 
of these dugouts were of soft mud; they moved slowly down as 
the men lay down; and the only sounds were the snores of the 
exhausted people sleeping, and then next were the screams of 
rats. As we could look at the people as they lay there in the 
light of a candle, you could see over their faces where insects 
were crawling, vermin crawling. From this German trench, I 
remember, hghts were going up at one time; they were flashing 
the lights, hghting up the other trenches; and we looked through 
the port-hole, to the enemy trench, the French trench, eighty 
yards away. It had been raining for two weeks, two solid weeks 
of rain had come down, and in this mud midway between the 
two trenches—” 

“Keep your voice up, please,” Stedman warned. 

“Between these two trenches, in the mud, forty yards from 
each trench, there lay a heap of bodies, all that was left of the 
last French charge, and these bodies were slowly sinking in the 
mud, had been left out there wounded to die. Nobody dared to 
come out, although they were only forty yards from the French 
trenches, and forty yards from the Germans. There had been no 
cessation of fighting; the wounded had lain out there screaming 
and dying in the mud, and they were sinking in the mud, and in 
some cases there wasn’t anything left of those bodies but an arm 
or a leg sticking up out of the soft mud with the flesh rotten 
on it.” 

“Now, I came back here,” he went on, after telling of other 
things he had seen, “I came back here, and what did I find? 
What happened while I had gone to war? At the time I came 
back, which was at the beginning of 1916, the society columns 
were full about people getting up war benefits, giving war plays, 
and the hotels and the houses of the upper West Side, upper 
Fifth Avenue, were full of knitting parties, knittir^ socks for 
soldiers. They were not knitting socks for soldiers because their 
sons were in the trenches, as they knit socks for soldiers now; 
they were knitting them for soldiers because it was the thing to 
do. They had Caruso sing there in the afternoon while they 
were knitting socks for soldiers, and the talk was all of frivolity 
about the fact there was a war going on in Europe; England 


and France were in it, it was fashionable to be in it, and we were 
not in it— why weren’t we in it? It made me sort of sick.” 

“And that is why you wrote that? ” 

“That is why I wrote this thing. There was nothing—” 

“Didn’t you think,” the judge interrupted, “it was time we 
got into it if you saw all that? ” 

Reed was dumbfounded. For nearly an hour he had told story 
after story of the horror of war, selecting deliberately the most 
gruesome incidents he had witnessed in Mexico and in Europe. 
“No,” he stumbled, “I— I did not think— I do not see the analogy. 
I think it was a reason to keep out.” 

Judge Manton instructed Stedman to continue, and the next 
question concerned Reed’s conception of war. “I was opposed 
to our going into the European war,” Reed said. “One of the 
reasons, I was a student of history, and I stiU am, and I do not 
think at that time anybody disputed that the reasons for the 
European war were based on the commercialized interests, of 
certain groups of European interests. I think in the last half of 
the nineteenth century—” 

Judge Manton broke in: “Now, we are not interested in that. 
We are interested in your state of mind.” 

“My state of mind is dependent on what I think about the 

“You will not be permitted to argue it,” Manton ruled, and 
he proceeded to take up the questioning himself. “Were you 
opposed to the war after our going into it? ” he asked. 

“Yes, sir.” 

“You have been opposed to it ever since?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Therefore, of course, you are opposed to obtaining the neces- 
sary military forces.” 

It was the crucial point, and Reed had been carefully in- 
structed by the defense attorneys. He parried and quibbled, but 
at last he said, “No, I was not opposed.” 

Stedman resumed, questioning Reed on his activities in Rus- 
sia. Once more the judge interfered. “Are you a Socialist?” 

“I am now, sir.” 

“How long since? ” 


AMERICA, 1918 

“WeU, I have been working with the Socialist movement for 
a long time. I did not become a Socialist tmtil last summer.” 

Stedman turned the witness over to Prosecuting-Attomey 
Barnes for cross-examination. Barnes first asked about interven- 
tion in Siberia, which Reed said he opposed. Then Barnes 
brought up the old story about Reed’s shooting from a German 
trench. Reed, again under instructions, said that he had fired 
into the air. “Do you agree,” Barnes asked, “with the views 
announced in the Masses with regard to the desirability of a 
proletarian revolution against the capitalists and the bourgeoisie?” 

“Yes, sir; all Socialists do.” 

“All Socialists do?” 


“And that, in your mind, is the only war that is worth fight- 
ing in?” 

“WeU, to teU you the truth, it is the only war that interests 

The s miling avowal left Barnes with nothing more to say, 
and, after Stedman’s redirect examination, which was chiefly 
concerned with his activities in the Bureau of International 
Propaganda, Reed was aUowed to leave the stand. In some re- 
spects it had not been a brUUant performance; in others it had. 
In the testimony regarding his experience as a war-correspond- 
ent, he had introduced into the trial an argument that had no 
legal weight but did impress the jury. He had stated -without 
equivocation his opposition to the war and his belief in Socialism 
and the class struggle. The one point on which he compromised 
was the question of intentional obstruction of the recruiting 
of military forces. 

On the whole, the defendants were firmer than they had been 
in the spring. In the spring, as Reed wrote, Germany had been 
invading Russia; now the United States was the invader. The 
bitter persecution of aU pacifists and radicals had sharpened the 
issue. “I think we aU felt tranquil,” he wrote, “and ready to go 
to prison if need be. At any rate, we were not going to dissemble 
what ^e believed.” Even Eastman, in his eloquent summation of 
the defense, was far more outspoken than he had been in the 
spring, and made fewer concessions to the hysteria of the mo- 


ment. Complete frankness would unquestionably have brought 
conviction, with a probable sentence of twenty years in prison. 
Reed had no love for compromise, and he did not compromise 
one whit more than was necessary, but he was more useful out 
of prison than in. 

Both Eastman and Stedman carefully announced to the jurors 
what District Attorney Barnes would say, and in his closing 
address he, rather lamely, fulfilled their prophecies. After he had 
strained to achieve the maximum of patriotic eloquence, he spoke 
of a friend of his who had died in France. “Somewhere in 
France,” Barnes cried, “he lies dead, and he died for you and 
me. He died for Max Eastman, he died for John Reed, he died 
for Merrill Rogers. His voice is but one of a thousand silent 
voices that demand that these men be punished.” 

Art Young, who had been quietly sleeping, woke and looked 
about him. He listened for a moment, and then leaned across the 
table. “Who’s he talking about?” he asked. “Didn’t he die for 
me too?” 

The jury disagreed, eight for acquittal, four against. The sec- 
ond Masses trial was over, and the indictment was soon to be 
dismissed, one less for John Reed to face. He knew that it might 
have been very different if he had not been born in Portland, 
Oregon, and educated at Harvard. It was by no means an un- 
qualified triumph for free speech; to no small extent it was a 
victory for the air of respectability. The next week, in the same 
court-room, he saw six Russian boys and girls given sentences of 
from fifteen to twenty years for distributing leaflets against 
intervention in Russia. If the Masses trial had inspired any illu- 
sions about fairness and freedom of speech, this was enough to 
dispel them. The enemy had no intention of surrendering. 


Spokesman of the Soviets 

F rom the moment he landed at the Atlantic port until he 
sailed from it again, eighteen months later, John Reed did 
more than any other one person to make known the truth 
about the Russian revolution. Not only did his book prove to be 
much the best written by an American eye-witness, both the 
most vivid and the most intelligent; before and after the book 
appeared, his speeches and his articles answered the questions 
that Americans were asking. During 1918 he published in the 
Liberator articles on Kerensky, the Russian army, the Depart- 
ment for Foreign Ajffairs, intervention, propaganda in the Ger- 
man army, and the structure and operation of the Soviet govern- 
ment. These articles were reprinted in radical papers all over 
the United States and Canada, and workers found in them the 
truth that the capitalist press was determined to conceal. His 
appointment as an official representative of the Soviets had been 
canceled, but he was nonetheless the spokesman of the Bolshe- 
viks in the United States. 

In the fall of 1918 there was a new attack on the Bolsheviks, 
led by the Hearst-trained Mr. Sisson. With the imprimatur of 
George Creel and the approval of a committee of professors 
made somewhat less than sane by the war, Mr. Sisson issued his 
famous collection of forgeries, purporting to show that the Bol- 
shevik leadej^ were in the pay and under the orders of Berlin. 
There were letters from the German general staff, correspond- 
ence between Bolshevik leaders, orders on banks, reports of 
telephone conversations, all revealing with not quite credible 
thoroughness and naivete, the direct connection between the 



Germans and the Bolsheviks. Mr. Creel said that the documents 
were, on the face of them, genuine, and the historians solemnly- 

Although it had been known in Petrograd that Sisson was in 
the market for “documents” of this sort, Reed had scarcely be- 
lieved he would dare to publish them. Since the article in which 
he exposed the forgeries was not ready in time for the November 
issue of the Liberator, the editors published it as a pamphlet. 
Many of the documents, he pointed out, had been discredited 
when they were used by the Kerensky government at the time 
of the July uprising. They had been hawked about by an un- 
scrupulous editor named Semenov, and had been rejected by 
the French and British governments as insufficiently plausible. 
Robins of the Red Cross had told Sisson they were forgeries, and 
doubts of their authenticity were expressed by others, including 
Graham R. Taylor and Arthur BuUard, who in a cable to Creel 
minimized their importance, “even if genuine.” 

Apart from the history of their shady origin, there was, as 
Reed pointed out, plenty of internal evidence to discredit them. 
The ffist two documents, supposedly orders for the destruction 
of evidence of the German-Bolshevik plot, carefuUy told what 
the evidence was. Several letters referred to events that had not 
taken place at the time the letters were supposedly written. The 
authors often showed an amazing ignorance of details with which 
they should have been familiar, speaking of Volodarsky, for 
example, as a commissar, referring to Joffe as chairman of the 
Military Revolutionary Committee, placing Tarasov-Radionov in 
Tomsk at a time when he was living in Reed’s hotel in Petro- 
grad. Sisson’s notes, moreover, were full of errors, and although, 
as Reed recognized, this did not discredit the documents, it 
threw doubt on Sisson’s ability to judge their authenticity. That 
some of the documents might be genuine, Reed granted, but 
these were given a false significance by their juxtaposition with 
forgeries. The collection as a whole was a preposterous fabrica- 

Reed had no time to make a detailed analysis, but he spoke 
out, as almost no one else did, and he spoke convincingly. He 
was always ready to speak out. When an article by M. L. Ear- 



kin appeared in the Tublic, attacking the Bolsheviks, Reed wrote 
to point out Larkin’s errors. When Upton Sinclair wanted to 
have Gorky’s attitude towards the Soviets explained, Reed wrote 
a letter, published in Sinclair’s magazine, explaining the limita- 
tions of the intelHgentsia. The magazine, called Upton Sin- 
clair’s, later published another exchange of letters between them. 
“The war to you seems simple,” Reed wrote Sinclair, “the Rus- 
sian revolution complicated. I must confess that it seems the 
other way round to me; not that the Russian revolution is en- 
tirely simple, however. I cannot see how any Socialist can doubt 
either the integrity of the great majority of the Soviet leaders, 
or the splendor of the Bolshevik dream, or even the possibility 
of its practical working-out. All intellectuals will criticize and 
be disappointed with the social revolution when it starts; and if 
it seems hasty, unprepared for, or based on irrealizable dreams, 
they will perhaps oppose it. But if the overwhehning masses of 
the people are going quite consciously somewhere, neither you 
nor I will stand off and refuse to participate. I know it is the 
facts I teU you that you do not believe; and I must be content 
to wait for history. But I know that I am right. I have not 
dreamed, but have studied and investigated as I never did be- 

Lecturing went on night after night. And on November 7, 
the anniversary of the Bolshevik triumph, there was a series 
of meetings, in Hunt’s Point Palace, the New Star Casino, 
Brookl57n Labor Lyceum, Brownsville Labor Lyceum. Reed, 
though he was coming down with influenza, made the rounds 
with the other speakers, Albert Rhys Williams, Scott Nearing, 
Eastman, and Nuorteva. Always there were cheers when he 
described the events of November 7, 1917, the flight of 
Kerensky, the All-Russian Congress, the capture of the Win- 
ter Palace. At the meetings a booklet was distributed. One 
Year of Revolution, and of course there was an article of Reed’s 

These were exciting days. Qose on the anniversary of the 
Russian revolution came the false armistice, the uprising in Ger- 
many, the abdication of the Kaiser, and then the real cessation 
of hostilities. Reed was in bed with influenza, but he felt the 


elation of the moment. It seemed certain that the era of world 
revolution had begun. 

Immediately militant Socialists throughout the United States 
began to organize their forces. In Chicago the Communist 
Propaganda League was founded. The Boston Socialist local 
began to issue the Revolutionary Age, with Louis Fraina and 
Eadmonn MacAlpine as editors and Scott Nearing, John Reed, 
N. I. Hourwich, Ludwig Lore, Sen Katayama, and G. Wein- 
stein as contributing editors. It was at first a four-page tabloid 
issued three times a week, and later an eight-page semi-weekly. 
The paper described events in Russia and Germany, printed 
statements by Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders, fought for 
Mooney and the other class-war prisoners in the United States, 
and agitated for a militant policy for the Socialist Party. Reed 
wrote for almost every issue. 

John Reed had no doubt that revolution was imminent. He 
told Roger Baldwin, who was being sent to jail as a conscientious 
objector, that he would be freed by the workers long before his 
sentence had ended. And yet he had no illusions about the actual 
state of mind of the American working class, which he called, 
“the most uneducated working class in the world.” He felt 
that the Socialist Party was partly made up of petty bourgeois, 
and that nothing was farther from their normal desires than a 
revolution. “The Socialists have some power,” he wrote. “They 
can swing a miUion votes. The ofiicial majority in the Socialist 
Party is more interested in ‘swinging’ those votes than in Social- 
ism.” But he was counting on history: “Nothing teaches the 
American working class except hard times and repression. Hard 
times are coming, repression is organized on a grand scale. In 
America for a long time there has been no free land, no oppor- 
tunity for workers to become millionaires. The wor king class 
does not yet know this. But if Tom Mooney stays in jail, if 
wages go down, if Socialists are arrested and the red flag sup- 
pressed, there will be a revolutionary movement in this country 
in five years.” 

All through November and December Reed was active in the 
left wing, speaking at its meetings and writing for the Revolu- 


tionary Age. But time for such activities was hard to find. The 
government had at last returned his Russian material and he was 
writing Ten Days That Shook the World. With an advance 
from Boni and Liveright to meet immediate needs, he settled 
down to day after day of solid writing. Finding that he was too 
often interrupted, both in the Croton house and in his little 
apartment on Patchin Place, he took a room in Paula Holladay’s 
Greenwich Inn, way up in the attic, and told no one where he 

Rapidly the book took shape. It was to be simply the story of 
the Bolshevik triumph. A second book, he planned, would de- 
scribe Russia’s foreign relations, the origins and functions of 
revolutionary organizations, the evolution of popular sentiment, 
and the structure of the Soviet State; it would be called From 
Kornilov to Brest-Litovsk. And there would be a third. The 
Smoke of Insurrection, to contain the impressionistic sketches he 
had written or planned to write. But this first book would take 
the reader day by day through the revolution. It was Arthur 
Garfield Hays who suggested the title. 

The book was not a compilation of what he had written on 
the revolution. Even the beginning he had made in Christiania 
was discarded. He used his articles, of course, as notes, and often 
took over phrases and occasionally paragraphs that he liked. But 
the book grew, page by page, in three months of tense writing, 
into an organic expression of all that he had seen in Russia and 
aU that he had learned since his return. For the backbone of the 
book he used his notebooks, the record of his own experi- 
ences. But this was not a story of personal adventure. It was 
documented as nothing Reed had written had been documented. 
He had complete files of the Russian Daily News, the Journal de 
Russie, Entente, and the Bulletin de la Presse. He had hundreds 
of Russian newspapers of all parties. He had his extraordinary 
collection of proclamations and decrees, which he had had trans- 
lated. He was poet, journalist, and scholar. 

It is no wonder that Ten Days That Shook the World is a 
great book. John Reed knew how to use his eyes; Insurgent 
Mexico had shown that. He knew all the tricks that a good news- 
paperman knows, and could think in terms of headlines as well 


as in terms of color and romance. And he had learned, slowly 
and resistingly, the value of accuracy and documentation, 
learned it at Ludlow and Bayonne and in the fight against war. 
He was perfectly trained for the task of reporting a revolution. 
But there was something more than that: he was a participant as 
well as an observer, and his book was a weapon as well as a 
report, all the more effective for its restraint and precision. In 
those three months that he spent bent over a typewriter, sur- 
rounded by his great piles of papers and pamphlets, he knew 
what he was doing: the world must be shaken again and again. 

By the middle of January the book was on the press, and Reed 
was once more speaking four or five nights a week. The board 
of education in New York City had forbidden the use of a pub- 
lic school for a meeting against intervention in Russia, and Reed 
and Eastman spoke in protest. There was a meeting of F inns , 
hundreds of whom came and maintained a stolid silence in the 
face of Reed’s hot enthusiasm. There was a meeting in Erie, 
Pennsylvania, at which a group calling themselves the Erie So- 
viet of Workers presented Reed with a written testimonial in 
appreciation of “the valuable and faithful services you have un- 
flinchingly rendered the Russian Socialist Republic since your 
arrival in this country from Russia.” In Boston, under the aus- 
pices of the Committee for a Democratic Peace, Reed spoke to 
three thousand people, saying, “No one who thinks it was wrong 
to go into Belgium can think it is right to go into Russia,” and, 
“The Red Terror isn’t confined to Russia; we have a little terror 
over here.” 

In Brooklyn a hundred policemen were assigned to one of his 
meetings. Having been told that he must not criticize the gov- 
ernment, he began, “My family came to this country, both 
branches, in 1607; of my ancestors was Patrick Henry, who 
signed the Declaration of Independence; another of my ances- 
tors was a general under George Washington; and another was 
a colonel on the northern side in the Civil War. I have a brother, 
a major m the aviation corps, now in France. I am a voter and a 
citizen of the United States, and I claun the right to criticize it 
as much as I please. I criticize the form of it because I claim that 
it is not a democratic enough government for me. I consider the 


Soviet government a more democratic government at the pres- 
ent time than our own government.” He spoke of America’s 
professed war aims, “Well, the war is finished, comrades, and 
where in hell is the democracy.? Now in New York City free 
speech is suppressed; Sociahsts are not allowed to meet; the red 
flag is banned; periodicals are barred from the mails; all the evi- 
dences of Prussianism appear.” The government had pretended 
that it was a war between two ideas, democracy and autocracy, 
but it had been merely a war between two sets of capitalists. 
“Now the war is ended,” he said, “but a new war is beginning; 
and this time it is a war between two ideas.” 

In the Revolutionary Age Reed wrote on capitalist terror in 
Europe and America. “The workers of Bridgeport,” he wrote, 
“the workers of Bethlehem, are now witnessing the discharge, 
not only of all active union men, but also of members of 
workers’ committees instituted by the United States Govern- 
ment’s War Labor Board . . . Out in Arizona the detectives and 
hangers-on of the copper mine owners who deported striking 
miners, who dehberately broke the law and spat on the Consti- 
tution, have been acquitted. , . , Does any American worker now 
doubt the innocence of Tom Mooney, or the filthy crookedness 
of the California court and district attorney which convicted 
him? . . . And Eugene Debs, sentenced to ten years, and Rose 
Pastor Stokes, and all the brave men and women who dared to 
tell the truth when it was dangerous, and now suffer in prison; 
is it difficult to guess why they were punished? . . . There is but 
one alternative to this: industrial unions, the Socialist Party, the 
general strike, and a labor democracy, in which those who do all 
the work shall have all the power.” 

The whole question of tactics was beginning to trouble him. 
Most Sociahsts, he wrote, seemed to try to give the impression 
that “Socialism is really Jeffersonian democracy, to intimate that 
all we want are reasonable reforms, labor legislation, and the full 
dinner pail.” Their theory appeared to be, “First make a hberal, 
and then convert him to Sociahsm.” “Fully a third of the Social- 
ist votes are, in normal times, cast by middle-class persons who 
think that Karl Marx wrote a good anti-trust law.” “I have no 
quarrel,” he said, “with that kind of propaganda— except that it 


does not make Socialists.” The comrades of the left wing “must 
find out from the American workers what they want most, and 
they must explain this in terms of the whole labor movement, 
and they must make the workers want more— make them want 
the whole revolution.” 

Reed did not cease writing for the Liberator. The March issue 
contained a warm tribute to Karl Liebknecht, murdered with 
Rosa Luxemburg in Berlin. RecalHng his visit to Liebknecht in 
the winter of 1914-15, Reed wrote of his courage and faith. 
“When at last the revolution came, with the Kaiser Socialists 
half-timorously holding the wheel, the first thing done by the 
workers was to set Karl Liebknecht free from prison. He must 
have known, as he was drawn in his flower-filled carriage 
through the shouting streets, that his hour was near. He must 
have known— when he cried to the throng from the balcony of 
the Russian embassy, the red flag floating over him, ‘The future 
belongs to the people!’— that for him there would be no future. 
. . . He was killed by the international capitalist class, it is true. 
What else could be expected? But remember! Those whose 
hands are red with Liebknecht’s blood and the blood of the Ger- 
man workers are the German Majority Social Democrats— the 
Kaiser Socialists— Ebert, Scheidemann, and the rest— who put 
down the workers’ insurrection with the help of the Kaiser sol- 
diers, and paid for it with the lives of Liebknecht and Rosa Lux- 

In the same issue was Reed’s last play, a fantasy called “The 
Peace That Passeth Understanding.” The curtain rises upon 
Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Orlando, and Makino. Or- 
lando rebukes Wilson for having said in Turin, “The industrial 
workers will dictate the peace terms.” “You must remember,” 
Orlando says, “that Italian workers are not educated— we have 
no Samuel Gompers.” When Wilson explains that such expres- 
sions are only to be interpreted in their Wilsonian sense, Cle- 
menceau congratulates him on his finesse, especially in inventing 
that fine phrase, “League of Nations,” to describe the old idea 
of the balance of power. This reminds Makino of an earher 
American phrase, “the open door in China,” and he adds his 
praises. Wilson says modestly, “A trifling achievement. Why in 



America, my second campaign was won by the phrase, ‘He kept 
us out of war.’ ” 

After the Serbian, Belgian, Czecho-Slovakian, Roumanian, Ar- 
menian, Yugo-Slav, Polish, and Central and South American del- 
egates have been disposed of, and the peace conference made 
safe from democracy, Wilson explains the fourteen points, one 
by one, to the satisfaction and delight of his companions. While 
Makino and Lloyd George roll dice for the Pacific colonies, 
Wilson prepares a statement describing the moral victory that 
his “earnestness and eloquence, supported by the unselfish mo- 
tives of the United States government in entering the war” have 
won. But just as he is giving it to the press, news comes of revo- 
lution throughout the world, and the delegates, seeking a stable 
government under which to live, decide to go to Russia. 

The playlet, which was repeatedly produced by the Wash- 
ington Square Players, suggested what had happened to John 
Reed’s sense of humor. Certainly he had not lost it, but it had 
sharpened into a sardonic sense of the vast hypocrisies and ab- 
surdities of capitalist civilization. He was, as a matter of fact, 
rather more hkely than he had once been to find amusement in 
the annoyances of his own life as well as in the blatancies of a 
Palmerized America. When the Fifth Avenue Bank used the ex- 
cuse of an overdrawn account to refuse to accept more deposits, 
and when the Harvard Club suspended him for an unpaid bill, 
he was irritated, but only for a little while. These were the petty 
tactics of bankrupt men, and he knew that he could afford to 
laugh at them. 

Reed found time to write the httle play, but he could not 
find time for poetry. He wished he could. One snoviy night, 
when he was hurrying back, without coat or hat, to Patchin 
Place, he met Sherwood Anderson on the comer of Fifth Av- 
enue and Ninth Street. For an hour they talked: did a poet do 
more by lying low and trying to get understanding, or whatever 
it was poets were after, or by giving himself to the fight? Reed 
didn’t know; he wouldn’t say the other way was wrong; but for 
himself, well, somebody had to do the fighting. And yet: “If I 
could be dead sure I had something on the ball as a poet . . he 
said. He knew of course that he had plenty on the baU. That 


was not the question. It was too bad, but poetry would have to 

There was another opportunity for Reed to strike a blow for 
Russia. On September 19, 1918, as a result of charges made by 
A. Mitchell Palmer, then custodian of alien property, a sub-com- 
mittee of the Senate was appointed to investigate brewing and 
liquor interests and German propaganda, with Senator Lee S. 
Overman as chairman, and Senators King, Wolcott, Nelson, and 
Sterling as his associates. Sessions began on September 21, and 
for some weeks Mr. Palmer’s charges were investigated. After 
the end of the war, however, German espionage became an old 
story, and the committee turned its attention to Bolshevism. Mr. 
Jacob M. Kennedy, secretary of the Montana Commercial and 
Labor League, helped to accomplish the transition when, on 
January 17, 1919, he announced that there was a connection be- 
tween pro-Germanism and Bolshevism in Montana. On January 
21, Thomas J. Tunney, a New York City inspector of police, 
appeared and confirmed Kennedy’s insinuations about the rela- 
tions between the two forms of anti-Americanism. Finally, when 
Archibald E. Stevenson was called, the committee had no diffi- 
culty in recognizing its duty. 

Mr. Stevenson, who had been chairman of the committee on 
aliens of the Mayor’s Committee of National Defense of New 
York, and subsequently a special agent for the Department of 
Justice and a member of the military intelligence division, was 
prepared to demonstrate that pro-Germans, pacifists, and Bol- 
shevib were one and the same. With the assistance of Major E. 
Lowry Humes, who had been assigned to the committee by the 
War Department, he thoroughly covered the various liberal, 
pacifist, and working-class organizations of the country. At last 
he came to the Russian revolution. “The interesting feature of the 
Bolshevild movement,” he said, “is that every one of these cur- 
rents that we have spoken of is now cooperating with the Bol- 
sheviki emissaries. We have several avowed agents of the Bolshe- 
viki government here— avowed propagandists.” 

“In this country; operating here?” Senator Nelson cried in 


33 » 

“In this country; operating today,” Stevenson insisted. 

Nelson asked for names. “Two of them are American citi- 
zens,” he was told. “One is John Reed, a graduate of Harvard 

“You don’t say?” Nelson ejaculated. 

In describing Reed’s appointment as consul, Stevenson men- 
tioned his having brought official forms for marriage and divorce 
with him. “What are the forms and requirements for marriages 
and divorces under the Soviet government in Russia?” Major 
Humes asked. 

“Simply a statement before the proper commissary that they 
want to be married, or that they want to be divorced.” 

“Do they have as many wives as they want?” the chairman 

“In rotation,” Stevenson answered. 

“Polygamy is recognized, is it?” Humes insisted. 

Stevenson hedged. “I do not know about polygamy. I have 
not gone into the study of their social order quite as fuUy as 

Nelson, always a little slow but enormously persistent, would 
not let the question drop. “That is,” he said, “a man can marry 
and then get a divorce when he gets tired, and get another 


“And keep up the operation?” 


“Do you know whether they teach free love?” Overman 

“They do,” Stevenson assured him. 

Though there were still a few witnesses to be heard on the 
subject of German propaganda, the committee was eager to get 
on to Bolshevism. On February 2, Louise Bryant and Albert 
Rhys Williams spoke on Russia in a meeting held in Washing- 
ton. The newspaper publicity roused the Senate, which, on the 
motion of Senator Walsh of Montana, voted to extend the power 
of the Overman committee so that it could make a sweeping in- 
vestigation of Bolshevism. Hatred of the Huns was no longer 
necessary, but hatred of the Bolshevik! had practical value in a 


nation whose industrial leaders were entering on a campaign for 
the open shop and pre-war hours and wages. 

On February ii, the first witness appeared, WiUiam Chapin 
Huntington, who had served as commercial attache of the De- 
partment of Commerce to the American embassy in Petrograd, 
and who testified to the chaos in Russia and the unpopularity of 
the Bolsheviks. He was followed by Professor Samuel N. Har- 
per, of the University of Chicago, who, though anti-Bolshevik, 
insisted on academic quahfications and reticences, and disap- 
pointed the committee. The Reverend George A. Simons, how- 
ever, who came to the hearing as “a one hundred percent Ameri- 
can and a Christian clergyman,” quoted the Jewish Protocols as 
authoritative, said the Bolsheviks “rape and ravish and despoil 
women at will,” and attacked Reed and W^iUiams by name. 

For a week the committee examined a procession of witnesses, 
each of them hostile to the Soviet regime: Y.M.C.A. workers, 
business men, and refugees. R. B. Dennis, a teacher at North- 
western University, said, “I do not know Mr. Williams or Mr. 
Reed. I have read their stuif and John WilHams’ wife’s book.” 
Robert F. Leonard, who, hke Mr. Denifis, had been with the 
Y.M.C.A., was persuaded to talk about Bolshevik morality. Sena- 
tor Nelson observed, “That man, Maxim Gorky I beheve his 
name is, whom they have taken into the fold, is about as immoral 
as they make them.” A business man appearing anonymously 
during an executive session, described the demoralization of the 
workmen. Madame Breshkovskaya, who had come to the United 
States, attacked Lenin and Trotsky. Two employees of the Na- 
tional City Bank in Petrograd testified to the evil state of affairs, 
and Roger E. Simmons of the Department of Commerce read to 
the committee the famous “decree” regarding the nationalization 
of women. 

By this time it was apparent that the committee had no desire 
to hear any one who was even mildly sympathetic to the Bol- 
sheviks. Reed, Louise Bryant, W^ilhams, and their friends wrote 
and telegraphed Senator Overman, and finally it was announced 
that they would be permitted to testify. 

Louise Bryant came first, on the afternoon of February 20. 
The Senators began: Do you believe in God?” ^^Do you believe 



in the sanctity of an oath?” “Are you a Christian?” “Do you 
believe in Christ?” “Do you beheve in a punishment hereafter 
and a reward for duty?” Finally she explained, “It seems to me 
as if I were being tried for witchcraft!” “This is important,” 
Senator King explained, “because a person who has no concep- 
tion of God does not have any idea of the sanctity of an oath, 
and an oath would be meaningless.” 

When the oath had finally been taken, the questions chiefly 
concerned her activities in the woman suffrage campaign. “You 
said that you were at the National Women’s Party headquar- 
ters?” Nelson asked. 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Did you belong to the picket squad?” 

“I do not know what that has to do with the truth about 
Russia, but I did. I beheve in equality for women as weU as men, 
even in my own country.” 

“Did you participate in the burning of the President’s mes- 


“You did not participate in the burning of the effigy?” Over- 
man asked. 

“I did; and I went on a hunger strike.” 

“What do you mean by that; you went to jail?” 

“I went to jail and went on a hunger strike. If you go without 
food and become weak, the authorities let you out because they 
do not want you to die in jail.” 

Senator King took up the examination, asking her about her 
marriage to TruUinger and her divorce. Miss Bryant suggested 
that she was supposed to be telling about Russia. “We want to 
know something about the character of the person who testi- 
fies,” Kin g explained, “so that we can determine what credit to 
give to the testimony.” 

King went on to ask if she had taken an oath, when she got 
her passport, not to engage in political activities, and, on her ad- 
mission that she had, he tried to force her to say that she had 
violated it. Failing in that, he turned to the subject of Reed’s 


Nelson took a hand. “Was your husband employed by the 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Employed for what purpose.^ ” 

“He worked in the propaganda department, and I will show 
you the kind of papers. There has never been any secret about 
this kind of propaganda. For instance—” 

Nelson mterrupted: “We do not cafe about that.” 

“Do not care about it?” 

“About those papers. We want the facts.” 

. “Those are the facts. You must admit the facts. Here is a paper 
printed in German, prepared for sending into the German lines 
in order to make—” 

Enraged, Nelson said, “Do not be so impertinent!” There 
were hisses and applause, and Senator Overman threatened to 
clear the room. Louise Bryant broke in; “You said. Senator 
Overman, that I am not on trial here. I am a free American citi- 
zen. I expect to be treated with the same courtesy as former wit- 
nesses, and I have not gotten it so far.” Immediately there was 
applause, and Overman ordered every one, except the stenog- 
rapher and the reporters, from the room. Reed rose from his 
place in the audience, and asked if he might stay. Permission was 
granted him. 

The executive session was somewhat less belligerent, but its 
spirit was the same. The committee was obviously quite uninter- 
ested in anything Louise Bryant might have to say about Russia, 
seeking only to extract from her incriminating facts about Reed, 
Williams, Raymond Robins, Jerome Davis, and any one else who 
was known not to be bitterly critical of the Soviets. Major 
Humes finally took up the questioning, and, after raising the 
subject of the nationahzation of women and then refusing to 
allow her to explain the origin of the “decrees,” permitted her to 
tell a little of what she had seen. 

When the committee re-convened the next morning, Humes 
was armed with a valuable discovery he had made during the 
night. Louise Bryant had said that she had credentials from the 
Philadelphia Public Ledger, whereas actually her credentials were 
from the Bell Syndicate. The truth was that when the Ledger 


bought her articles, they had asked her to make it appear that 
she had represented them in Russia. She had kept up the fiction, 
and the Ledger now repudiated her. 

While Humes tried to make as much as possible of this, Louise 
Bryant suddenly shifted the attack. “I want to know,” she said, 
“why, after my testimony yesterday, you sent a telegram to Mr. 
Williams, whom you accused of spreading Bolshevik propaganda, 
and said ‘Disregard telegram of February 19. Subpoena with- 
drawn.’ And if it is also true that you withdrew the subpcena to 
Colonel Robins because you were afraid that too much truth 
would come out here?” 

It was Humes’ turn to object; “I do not know that I am on 
the witness stand,” he said with dignity, “or that it is a matter 
with which the witness is concerned.” Having the advantage, 
Louise Bryant pressed on, protesting against her treatment the 
day before; she had been given an examination for heresy by 
Senator King, lectured on her morals by Senator Nelson, and 
heckled by every one. She went on to speak of the persons who 
had asked to testify and had not been called. Humes denied that 
Reed had asked to appear, and Reed spoke up from the audience, 
so that Overman had to suggest that the letter might have been 
mislaid. On the whole it was Louise Bryant’s morning, and, 
though the committee and Major Humes did their best to dis- 
credit her testimony, she managed to tell her story of the revo- 

Reed was called at three-thirty that afternoon. Having seen 
the treatment his wife had been accorded, he was prepared. 
There he was, tall, strong, impressive, with a smile on his face 
and ruthlessness in his eyes. He swaggered a little, eying the 
senators with a kind of careless defiance. But he was deadly 
serious. If the committee proposed to browbeat him, they would 
find him too quick and too strong. If they wanted to play a 
game, he would beat them at it. 

There was the usual wrangle about the oath, and then, with 
ostentatious cheerfulness, Reed answered Humes’ questions 
about his newspaper career, the assurances he had made with re- 
gard to the Stockholm Conference, and his behavior in Petro- 
grad. His description of conditions before, during, and after the 


revolution was so dear that the senators could find no chance 
for objections. He discussed factory management, the status of 
the press, the use of violence, the dissolution of the Constituent 
Assembly, the handling of food cards, the amount of crime, and 
the operation of the soviets. His work with the Bureau of Inter- 
national Propaganda he defended, as usual, on the ground that it 
had been directed against the Kaiser. And the defense was by no 
means specious, even from the point of view of the American 
government, for General Hoffman, Germany’s military repre- 
sentative at Brest-Litovsk, had said, “Immediately after conquer- 
ing those Bolsheviks, we were conquered by them. Our victori- 
ous army on the eastern front became rotten with Bolshevism.” 

Humes did his best to make Reed admit that he either did or 
did not advocate the overthrow of government by force. Reed 
insisted that he held merely to the opinion that, under certain 
circumstances, extra-constitutional methods of change might be 
necessary. Humes shifted his ground, bringing up the famous 
Dunn story of the shooting from the German trenches. “I do 
not know how many times this thing must be contradicted,” 
Reed said, “but I am perfectly w illin g to keep on contradicting 

Senator Wolcott brought the investigation back to Reed’s 
views, and Humes asked, “Have you in any of your public 
speeches advocated a revolution in the United States similar to 
the revolution in Russia?” 

“I have always advocated a revolution in the United States.” 

Humes was startled. “You are in favor of a revolution in the 
United States?” 

“Revolution,” Reed explained, “does not necessarily mean a 
revolution by force. By revolution I mean a profound social 
change. I do not know how it will be attained.” 

“Do you not in your speeches leave the impression with your 
audiences that you are talking about a revolution of forced” 


“Do you mean,” Wolcott asked, “to leave that impression?” 

“No. My point is that the will of the people will be done; the 
will of the great majority of the people will be done.” 

“That is a sound point,” Wolcott admitted. 


‘ That is my point, and if the will of the great majority is not 
done by law, it will be done some other way. That is all.” 

“Do you not know, Mr. Reed,” Wolcott went on, “that the 
use of the word ^revolution’ in the ordinary meaning carries the 
idea of force, arms, and conflict?” 

“Well, as a matter of fact, unfortunately, aU these profound 
social changes have been accompanied by force. There is not 
one that has not.” 

A moment later Wolcott said, “Your mental agility is, I con- 
fess, too much for me.” It was true. W^hen Humes raised a point 
about the land decrees, Wolcott again tried to argue with Reed. 
“Suppose you lived in one of those villages,” he said, “and you 
had a couple of sons— and they were twins . . .” Reed poHtely 
bowed, “Thank you, sir,” he said. The committee was glad to 
let him go. Before he left, he named a number of men he would 
hke to have called; Frank Keddie, Raymond Robins, Major 
Allen Wardwell, who, he thought, “wotild be a peach,” Major 
Thacher, and Jerome Davis. 

A number of these people were summoned. Albert Rhys Wil- 
liams fared reasonably well, perhaps because the committee had 
been a httle chastened by their experience with Reed and Louise 
Bryant. Senator Nelson, however, could not resist the tempta- 
tion to bully Bessie Beatty, and Overman had to apologize for 
him. Frank Keddie, a representative of the American Society of 
Friends, was heckled because of his pacifism. Colonel Robins met 
unconcealed hostility with dignity and courage. Ambassador 
Francis, in his testimony, satisfied the conunittee on every point 
and attacked Robins so unscrupulously that the committee had 
to hold a special session to permit Robins to reply. 

When Oliver Sayler began by saying, “I want to insist in ad- 
vance, Senator, that I am no Bolshevik,” Nelson said, “You need 
not mind that. We will judge whether you are a Bolshevik by 
what you tell us.” That was the attitude of the committee: any- 
body who did not vociferously damn the Soviets must be a Bol- 
shevik and therefore was not to be beheved. The testimony of 
Reed and the men he had recommended did not alter in the 
slightest the opinions of the committee, but at least he had the 


satisfaction of saying his say and of discomforting the men who 
had started out to heckle and confuse him. 

What irritated him was that the newspapers could so easily 
turn his victory into a defeat. After having forced the commit- 
tee to listen to the facts about Russia, he saw those facts twisted 
in the press. The papers could not ignore his testimony and him; 
so they distorted and behttled. Stanley Frost in the Tribune 
called him “a man to whom clever phrases are an intoxication 
and patient study utterly impossible,” “a soldier of fortune,” “a 
matinee idol.” Like the other reporters, he seized on Reed’s face- 
tious statement that he might be able to get money from wealthy 
women to establish a bureau of information about Soviet Russia. 
“Good sport,” he wrote. “Money from rich women, speeches 
urging force that he doesn’t believe in, the distinction of wide 
disapproval, stir and excitement and revolution. Good sport and 
little risk— for Reed!” 

Then there was a paper that carried an editorial entitled “One 
Man Who Needs the Rope.” “John Reed,” it said, “told the 
Senate committee investigating Bolshevism that he was a firm 
advocate of revolution in the United States. ... If there is no 
law for handhng a case of this kind one should be enacted speed- 
ily. If a man should be hanged for instigating another to murder 
one man, he should certainly be hanged for instigating men to 
kill thousands of men. If the law is defective, why wait until to- 
morrow to remedy its defects? A law should be passed at once 
against such utterances as those brazenly made by this man Reed, 
and then as soon as possible ten thousand hangings should fol- 

But all this was nothing compared to the actual misrepresenta- 
tion that kept his testimony from the public. “My one complaint 
against you and the other paid agents of the capitalist class,” he 
wrote the New York Times in a letter it refused to pubhsh, “is 
not that you oppose Bolshevism, but dehberately pervert and 
suppress the truth about it and about what is going on in Russia. 
It is all very well to state that Bolshevism means wholesale mur- 
der, socialization of women, robbery unrestrained, and then say 
that I stand for it. It is all very well to say that the Bolshevild are 
anarchists (although anarchy in Russia and America is openly 


opposed to the strongly centralized proletarian state built up in 
Russia), and then us, who defend Bolshevism, anarcl^ts. 
This of course is a very convenient method of carrying on a sin- 
ister propaganda for the benefit of those ruthless interests who 
plunged the world into a war which cost more than seven mil- 
lion lives, and who are rich with blood-money. But it is not the 
truth— and you know it is not the truth.” 

He went on to comment on the way the committee had con- 
ducted its sessions and to illustrate the Time^ treatment of the 
evidence. He alluded to the charge that he was growing rich on 
Moscow gold. “There is no money,” he said, “in speaking to 
working-class audiences, or writing in working-class papers, 
which are the only audiences and papers open to any advocacy 
of the truth about Soviet Russia. All persons who work for an 
unselfish purpose for little or nothing are incomprehensible to 
persons who never work for nothing and can be hired to work 
for anything.” 

From Washington Reed went straight to Philadelphia, where his 
trial began on February 24. The charge of “incitement to sedi- 
tiotis remarks” had been dropped, and both Kogerman and Reed 
were charged with riot and assault and battery. The more con- 
servative Socialists of the city refused to have anything to do 
with the case, since Reed was a Bolshevik, and he had to secure 
his own lawyer. At first he tried to persuade Seymour Stedman 
to take the case, but Stedman believed a local lawyer would be 
more successful, and Charles Ervin, of the Call, recommended 
David Wallerstein. Most of Wallerstein’s work had been for 
corporations, but he liked Reed, when Ervin introduced him, 
and the charge seemed to him absurd. He insisted on faking the 
case without pay. Hemy J. Nelson defended Kogerman. 

The judge, Raymond MacNeille, knew nothing about Social- 
ism and boasted of the fact. The jurors and District Attorney 
Fox were equally ignorant. Fox made, of course, the most of his 
patriotic opportunities, and the newspapers clamored for a con- 
viction. Reed believed that acquittal was impossible. Wallerstein, 
however, handled the case with great skill. He first succeeded 
in having the charge of assault and battery dismissed, and then 


had Reed testify. Reed told his story simply and well. In cross- 
examination Fox concentrated on Reed’s motives in going to the 
hall after he had been informed that the permit had been can- 
celed, trying to maintain, of course, that he had gone there with 
the deliberate intention of provoking a riot. When Wallerstein 
called a number of witnesses. Fox made much of the fact that 
most of them were foreigners, and the judge refused to sustain 
Wallerstein’s objections. Wallerstein, in summing up, placed all 
his emphasis on the right of freedom of speech. “I am not a So- 
cialist,” he said, “but when the superintendent of police can say 
who shall or shall not speak, it is better that we stop talking 
about democracy.” He maintained both that Reed had every 
right to test the police ruling and that no riot had taken place. 
Despite Fox’s harangue and the judge’s patriotic charge, the jury 
acquitted Reed on the first vote, and, after two hours’ discussion, 
freed Kogerman as weU. 

This was a clearer victory for freedom of speech than the 
Masses case. Fox told Wallerstein that it was one of the most dis- 
astrous verdicts in the history of Philadelphia and insisted that 
the jurors were moved by fear of Bolshevik bombs. The liberal 
press, beginning to return to sanity, congratulated the court, 
Reed, and Wallerstein. Reed felt that WaFerstein deserved the 
credit. During the three or four days that Reed and Louise Bry- 
ant spent in Philadelphia, they stayed in Wallerstein’s home, and 
Reed was filled with respect for this simple, unpretentious, hon- 
est liberal. The Wallersteins, on their side, were delighted with 
his brilliant talk, and listened to tale after tale of adventure in 
Mexico and Europe. 

An ordeal that Reed had particularly dreaded had been trans- 
formed into a pleasant and gratifying episode. The Masses in- 
dictment had been dropped, and now, with acquittal in Phila- 
delphia, and with the strong possibility that the Hunt’s Point 
Palace case would be quashed because of the end of the war, he 
felt relatively free. And when, on the nineteenth of March, Ten 
Days That Shook the World finally appeared, he had a strong 
sense of achievement. Many of the reviews were, of course, un- 
favorable, but from all over the country came the only kind of 
praise that counted, Scores of Wobblies wrote him from Leav- 


enworth and other penitentiaries, telling him that this was the 
real thing. Walt Whitman’s friend, Horace Traubel, a revolu- 
tionary veteran, wrote him, “I have great respect for all you do 
—and better still, for aU you are.” A radical bookseller in Colo- 
rado packed a hundred copies from mining camp to mining 
camp, and sold them all. Wherever Reed spoke to radical groups, 
he found that Ten Days was regarded as a kind of handbook of 
revolution. What did he care if Charles Edward Russell damned 
it in the New York Times? Passed from hand to hand, and read 
till the pages fell apart, the book was what he had wanted it to 
be— a weapon. “You are correct,” he said, in his letter to the 
Times, “when you call information about Russia Bolshevik prop- 
aganda, for the great majority of persons who learn the truth 
about Russia become convinced Bolsheviki.” The statement may 
have been extravagant, but it would not be easy to compute the 
number of persons whose interest in Communism dates from the 
reading oi Ten Days That Shook the World. 



K bed’s resignation from the Liberator, his work as contribut- 
ing editor of the Revolutionary Age, and his close identi- 
^ fication with the leaders of the left wing were natural 
stages in the transition from the task of giving information about 
Bolshevism in Russia to the task of organizing Bolshevism in 
America. It was an easy transition because Russia was the touch- 
stone that divided the right from the left in the Socialist Party. 
In the winter of 1918-19, Bolshevism was the great topic of de- 
bate, not so much between Socialists and one-hundred-percent 
Americans as between Socialists and Socialists. 

Joseph Shaplen was one of the few right-wing Socialists who 
had been in Russia during the revolution, and the Revolutionary 
Age invited him to debate with Reed, He refused, on the ground 
that the Revolutionary Age was fighting the Socialist Party; he 
would, he said, debate under the auspices of a Socialist local. It 
made little difference to Reed who sponsored the meeting, and 
on March 6, in the Manhattan Lyceum, the debate took place. 
Shaplen, of course, argued that the Bolshevik regime was undem- 
ocratic. Reed replied, “The Bolsheviki believe in democracy of 
the working class, and no democracy for anybody else,” and 
proceeded to show the sensitiveness of the soviets to the will of 
the workers and peasants. He cited Marx’s views on the dictator- 
ship of the proletariat, which Shaplen and other right-wing So- 
cialists had contrived to forget, and offered statistics on the pro- 
ductivity of industry under working-class control. 

In the heat of the debate Reed forgot the rules of parliamen- 
tary procedure and used the last five minutes. of his rebuttal to 




make personal charges against Shaplen. Shaplen, he alleged, had 
had Tsarist associations in Russia and had advocated American 
intervention. Shaplen, who could not answer Reed in the course 
of the debate, brought charges agamst him before the grievance 
committee of the New York local. In the meantime, the Phila- 
delphia local, to which Shaplen belonged, was considering the 
charge that he was a counter-revolutionary. 

How sharp the cleavage had become had been made apparent 
by the publication, in the Revolutionary Age for February 8, of 
the manifesto and program of the left wmg, to which Reed had 
helped give literary form. The manifesto announced that the left 
wing did not intend to split the Socialist Party but to make it 
truly Socialist. Explaining the collapse of the Second Interna- 
tional during the war on the ground that it had been corrupted 
by bourgeois reformers and self-seeking trade-unionists, it de- 
scribed the German Spartacists and the Russian Bolsheviks as the 
true followers of Marx. In the United States the end of the war 
had brought unemployment and a concerted capitalist eJffort to 
reduce the standard of living. The workers were answering the 
employers with militant strikes. In this surge of revolt lay the 
Socialist Party’s opportunity, but the leaders were too con- 
cerned with their petty reforms to seize it. Whereas the syn- 
dicalists were blind to the possibihties of pohtical action, the 
reform Socialists misused political methods. The left wing pro- 
posed a new poHcy, in both politics and industry, looking to- 
wards the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of So- 
cialism through a dictatorship of the proletariat. 

The strategy of the left wing was based on the assumption 
that a revolutionary crisis was approaching in the United States. 
In Portland, Oregon, John Reed’s birthplace, a Council of 
Workers, Soldiers, and Sailors had been formed, proclaiming the 
class struggle, the bankruptcy of capitalism, and the coming 
seizure of power. The Soviet World of Philadelphia, hailing the 
Portland Council, predicted that the next two years would see 
the birth of the Socialist Soviet Republic of the United States of 
America. Nothing seemed impossible when one looked at Eu- 
rope. Although reaction had triumphed in Finland and Poland, 
and moderate Socialists had strangled the revolutions in Ger- 


many and Austria, proletarian forces were still strong. In Hun- 
gary, Bela Kun’s brief rule was about to begin, and the workers 
of Italy were seizing factory after factory. As for the United 
States, even without exaggerating the militancy of the workers 
at that particular moment, one who had seen Russia in 1915 and 
again in 1917 knew that docility might change to revolt in a 
year or a few months or, under sufficient pressure, a few weeks. 
Reed, hopeful as he was, was not the most sanguine member of 
the left wing. 

If the world revolution was beginning, sooner or later to reach 
this country, the policies of the officials of the Socialist Party 
were not merely stupid; they were a betrayal of the working 
class. Although the party had officially voted against war, many 
of its leaders, including the Socialist aldermen in New York 
City, had supported the government, endorsing liberty loan 
drives and other war measures. With the armistice, these officials 
had been chiefly concerned to preserve the party from the 
stigma of Bolshevism. To the members of the left wing, the 
whole policy of the Socialist Party leadership seemed to aim at 
suppression of the growing militancy. 

The left-wing leaders could not reach the membership through 
the party press nor through the ordinary organizational meth- 
ods. The party had a machine, and the conservatives controlled 
it. Therefore the members of the left wing formed special units. 
The creation of the Communist Propaganda League of Chicago, 
the founding of the Revolutionary Age, and the issuing of the 
manifesto and program were steps in this process. And on Feb- 
ruary 15, a left-wing section of the Sociahst Party of Greater 
New York was ofGcially organized at an all-day conference. 
Reed was appointed as the New York representative on the staff 
of the Revolutionary Age and was elected to the city committee 
of fifteen. Maximilian Cohen was elected executive secretary and 
Rose Pastor Stokes treasurer. 

The manifesto and program of the left wing were endorsed 
by many of the Socialist locals and by the Lettish, Russian, Lith- 
uanian, Polish, Ukrainian, South Slavic, Hungarian, and Estho- 
nian Federations, foreign-language groups which included a 
large proportion of the members of the Socialist Party. The 



movement towards the left wing was accelerated by the news 
that the Communist Party of Russia had issued a call for a con- 
gress to form a new International, soon followed by information 
that the Third or Communist International had come into exist- 
ence. The left wing immediately initiated a referendum for ad- 
herence to this International. 

Members of the right wing were as determined as their op- 
ponents. To them it was absurd to believe that a revolutionary 
crisis was at hand and wicked to suggest that power should be 
violently seized. Although they were as emphatic as the militants 
in aiErming their desire for the destruction of capitalism, they 
could conceive of no other weapons than education and the slow 
achievement of parliamentary power. This being true, they re- 
garded the program of the left wing as futile and its tactics as 

The left wing began to call for a national emergency conven- 
tion. It also entered candidates in the election of international 
delegates and members of the national executive committee, 
nominating Reed as an international delegate. He devoted more 
and more of his time to left-wing affairs, and meetings of the 
city committee were sometimes held in his home in Croton. To 
one meeting he brought Howard Scott, who, after expounding 
the unique importance of the engineer in the reconstruction of 
society, was distressed to find that the left-wing leaders clung 
to the old-fashioned opinion that the proletariat would have to 
make the revolution. At another meeting Reed unfolded a plan 
for rescuing Debs from jail, presenting it so vividly that, for an 
hour, the committee listened to every detail. 

Despite the liveliness of his mind, which had room for the 
notions of a Howard Scott and for schemes of jail-delivery, his 
comrades on the committee found Reed a devoted, informed 
revolutionary. Never a Marxist scholar, he was perfecdy clear, 
thanks to his experiences in Russia, on the fundamentals of scien- 
tific Socialism. And he had an extraordinary feeling for the 
working class. The kind of sympathy he had felt in Paterson and 
Ludlow had ripened into actual unity with the workers. He 
understood their point of view and the way their minds worked 


so completely that they never hesitated to accept him as one of 

With his understanding of the Marxist conception of classes 
and the struggle between them, Reed naturally speculated on 
the forces that had made him a traitor to his ovm class. He knew 
that Marx had foreseen the adherence of a certain section of the 
intelligentsia to the proletarian cause, and he could see how, in 
statistical terms, that could come about, but he was interested 
in what had happened to him as an individual. It was clear that 
his rebelliousness, which went back into his early boyhood, had 
much to do with it, and for that he could be grateful to the 
example of his father and perhaps to certain repressive influences 
in his enviromnent. His passion for experience had also played a 
part, never allowing him to accept an easy, blinding routine. But 
rebelliousness and the desire for a richer life were characteristic 
of most of the writers of Reed’s generation. When he tried to 
decide why he, unlike most of the others, had taken the revolu- 
tionary path to the fulfillment of their common hopes, he could 
only see that he had been fortunate in his experiences. The East 
Side, Paterson, Mexico, Ludlow, and the war had taught him 
much, preparing him for the crowning good fortune of being in 
Russia during the revolution. 

When Upton Sinclair called him “the playboy of the social 
revolution,” Reed was htirt. That he had been a playboy he was 
not inclined to deny, but he was not playit^ with revolution. He 
made litde pretense to leadership, and was satisfied to do what- 
ever work was assigned to him. The fact that he had been 
through the Russian revolution and had written of it so well in 
Ten Days That Shook the World made him enormously useful 
to the left wing, and he took his responsibilities as public spokes- 
man with great seriousness. But he was unwilling to be merely a 
front; he did his share of the drudgery. 

Significantly, his greatest interest was in the actual technique 
of working-class control. In an article in the Revolutionary Age 
he pointed out that, despite the high efficiency of the American 
worker, control would be difficult because of the specialization 
of labor. He recommended the formation of shop-committees 
to study problems of production, manufacture, cost, and price. 



In this way the worker would discover the inefficiency of capi- 
talism, realize the extent to which he was being robbed, and at 
the same time learn how to control the industry in which he 
worked. “It is not only necessary,” Reed wrote, “to plan the 
pohtical downfall of the capitalist class, but also to get into the 
minds of the workers some conception of the industrial frame- 
work which will underlie the new Socialist political common- 

If he had felt that he was unnecessary to the movement, his 
mail would have destroyed the notion. In the first three months 
of 1919 he received forty-four invitations to address meetings. 
There were a dozen letters from workers who were puzzled 
about this detail or that of the Socialist program. Russians asked 
him how to communicate with their families, and revolutionaries 
sought his help in getting into Russia. There was a Finnish boy, 
amazed because the Boston Transcript rejected his article on rev- 
olution, who wanted Reed to help him get it pubhshed. A Span- 
ish Jew, writing in French, offered to do translations from a 
Greek revolutionary paper. Such letters came every morning, 
and almost every morning there were letters of abuse that testi- 
fied as unmistakably to his effectiveness. 

During February Reed was contemplating a lecture trip to the 
Pacific Coast. His mother, eager though she was to see him, 
urged him not to come to Portland, for “they are arresting Bol- 
sheviks out here.” Irritated by the suggestion that only in ‘Port- 
land were Bolsheviks arrested, Reed repHed sharply. Usually their 
affection for each other conquered the hostility that each felt 
for the other’s ideas, but this time disagreement flared into a 
quarrel. They were reconciled only when she learned that her 
brother-in-law, a general in the regular army, had been publicly 
attacking Reed. 

Reed did not make the trip, for, after the Overman hearing 
and the Philadelphia trial, he was occupied with the work of the 
left wing. Louise Bryant, however, left for the West early in 
March, speaking in Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis, 
and then in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and other cities on 
the Coast. A fortnight later Reed went as far as Minneapolis, 


addressing meetings in Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, and Chicago, 
but he was back in Croton within ten days, writing Louise that 
the crocuses were up. 

One reason for remaining in the East was that he had, for the 
moment, profitable employment. Solon Fieldman, president of 
Press Forum, a newspaper service syndicate, asked Reed to take 
part in a debate on “Bolshevism— Promise or Peril?” Fieldman 
originally planned to secure Madame Breshkovskaya, or possibly 
Charles Edward Russell, as Reed’s opponent, but in the end 
Henry L. Slobodin, a Socialist who had withdrawn from the 
party because of the St. Louis declaration against war, took the 
assignment. After a definition and an outline had been agreed 
upon, each debater was to submit a first argument on the first 
topic. This was to be dehvered to the other debater, who, in his 
second argument could both answer his opponent and introduce 
new material. The third argument was to serve purely as a re- 
buttal. The topics proposed included internationalism, govern- 
ment, democracy, militarism, industry, agriculture, the family, 
social welfare, education, religion, culture, and scientific prog- 
ress, each in its relation to Bolshevism. 

Fieldman, who had had considerable success with smilar de- 
bates, proposed to pay fifteen cents a word. Reed, though a 
Httle skeptical about the practical possibilities of the scheme, 
hired Fred Boyd as research-assistant and set to work. Slobodin 
was a rhetorician— he defined Bolshevism as “the maniac’s de- 
lirium, the fool’s paradise, the apache’s valhalla”— and Reed had 
no difficulty in meeting his arguments. But he wanted to use to 
the full his opportunity to reach what Fieldman confidently as- 
serted would be a large number of readers, and, though Boyd 
was thoroughly trained in Marxism and Reed had mastered the 
history of Bolshevism in Russia, both of them spent many hours 
in the library, documenting and sharpening Reed’s arguments. 

Reed worked on the debate through most of March, submit- 
ting ten or twelve of the brief articles. They were accurate and 
logical, and he was justified in writing Louise Bryant, “The de- 
bate with Slobodin is going very well; up to date he has said 
absolutely nothing, and I have him licked to a frazzle.” But by 
the end of the month Fieldman, discovering that newspapers 



were interested in only one side of that particular question, aban- 
doned the plan. Reed, however, had been paid several hundred 
dollars, and had advanced a httle further in the mastery of Marx- 

As much of his time as possible he spent in Croton. “How I 
hate to leave the country!” he wrote his wife, after describing 
“two hectic days in town, spent speaking at meetings, attend- 
ing the executive committee of the left wing, and reading in the 
library for my debate.” Louise Bryant, in the meantime, had seen 
his family and was relieved to fiid them friendly. His brother 
Harry was disillusioned because his good war-record did not get 
him a job and had taken to selling securities. Mrs. Reed was hav- 
ing financial difficulties, and some of the money Reed earned 
from his debate went to her. 

On the fourth of April the indictment in the Hunt’s Point 
Palace case was quashed, and Reed was for the moment a free 
man. Early in April he spoke at two meetings to welcome L. C. 
Martens, the representative of the Soviet government, and he 
went to Philadelphia for “Red Week.” On April 19, the New 
York Communist appeared, the official organ of the city’s left 
wing, with John Reed as editor, Eadmonn MacAlpine as asso- 
ciate editor, and Maximihan Cohen as business manager. The edi- 
torials set forth the position of the left wing, praised the Revolu- 
tionary Age, endorsed the proposal for a national left-wing 
conference, and called for a demonstration on behalf of Debs. 
The paper was barred from the Rand School and condemned by 
officials of the Socialist Party. 

When the second issue appeared, a week later, the conserva- 
tives, not content with controlling the Call, founded a paper of 
their own, called the New York Socialist. Adopting the jeering 
tone of its rival, it surpassed the Communist in personal attack. 
“A crisis has arisen in the Socialist Party,” it proclaimed. “An 
enemy has appeared within our ranks. At a time when unity of 
purpose and unity of action are prime necessities, this enemy has 
raised the black banner of anarchy among us. It is to meet this 
enemy that the Socialist is published.” Reed was described as “a 
well-known journalist who is in the party about six months.” 
Other left-wing leaders were condemned as anarchists, petty 


bourgeois, and criminals. Even the charge of Moscow gold was 

Reed’s new seriousness could not withstand the temptation 
that the Socialist offered. On May 1 7, the Socialist appeared and 
was sold as usual at the Rand School. Several thousand copies 
were distributed before it was discovered that this particular 
issue had been prepared, not by Berenberg, Waldman, and the 
regular staff, but by John Reed and Eadmonn MacAlpine. The 
leading article, printed under an exact repHca of the Socialist 
heading, purported to be a speech delivered by Louis Waldman 
on April Fool’s Day. “I do not wish to descend to personalities,” 
Mr. Waldman was made to say. “This is not a matter of persons, 
but of principles. But let us call the roll of the so-called ‘leaders’ 
of the so-called ‘left wing.’ ” After denunciations of Hourwich, 
Larkin, Reed, MacAlpine, Gitlow, and Rose Pastor Stokes, and 
a learned exposition of Marxism, he continued: “You have heard 
here tonight a great deal of talk about insurrection, mass action, 
and the like. Well, comrades, you know me. I have been on every 
barricade so far erected in this country, and I shall be the first 
man to mount whatever barricades may be thrown up in the 
future.” He concluded with an attack on the left wing: “So 
evident is their intention to disrupt the party that it has been 
necessary to expel all left-wing branches and exclude the mem- 
bers from any vote on party affairs. If this is not disrupting the 
party, what is?” 

The Socialist might be the fair butt of Reed’s humor, but the 
situation was not humorous and Reed knew it. On the one hand, 
there was the increasingly brutal repression of all radical activi- 
ties. On May Day uniformed soldiers and sailors roamed through 
the streets of New York, breaking up meetings and beating So- 
cialists. A group of them attacked the CalVs printing plant, injur- 
ing a number of employees, while police stood by and watched 
them. In Boston the police openly cooperated with the mob 
that raided a peaceful procession, firing upon women and chil- 
dren, and arresting more than one hundred of the marchers. In 
Cleveland, where more than twenty thousand workers marched, 
the police and the Loyal American League shot two men, se- 


verely injured at least a score, and arrested one hundred and 

And on the other hand, the revolutionary movement was 
split into two warring camps. So sharp had the conflict become 
that on May 21 Morris HiUquit, under the guise of counseling 
a peaceful separation of the two factions, gave the signal for 
the expulsion of the left wing. His article in the Call was intelli- 
gent and adroit. He did not defend the Second International 
and he did not attack Russia. The failure of the European Social- 
ist parties in the war he attributed to the opportunism of the 
labor movement. The great necessity, therefore, was the re- 
education of labor, and for this the moment was ripe. But the 
left wing, which he described as “a purely emotional reflex of 
the situation in Russia,” stood in the way of this great program 
of propaganda. “I am opposed to it,” he declared, “not because 
it is too radical, but because it is essentially reactionary; not 
because it would lead us too far, but because it would lead us 
nowhere.” The preaching of reconciliation would be futile, for 
antagonism was too intense. Better for the comrades to sepa- 
rate: “The time for action is near. Let us clear the decks.” 

The national executive committee of the Socialist Party, meet- 
ing in Chicago in the last week of May, followed HiUquit’s in- 
structions by expelHng the entire Socialist Party of the state of 
Michigan and suspending seven foreign-language federations 
with a membership of thirty thousand. In explaining the suspen- 
sion of the language federations, Adolph Germer, national execu- 
tive secretary, called attention to the remarkable growth of these 
organizations, which had doubled their membership. This he 
regarded as a dangerous symptom, since their almost imanimous 
support of the left wing indicated that they could not rise above 
“nativistic and nationalistic prejudices.” The Michigan organiza- 
tion was expelled because of two resolutions it had adopted, one 
forbidding its members to support reform measures, the other 
requiring speakers to take a firm and presumably hostile atti- 
tude towards rehgion. SociaUsts in Michigan opposed to these 
two resolutions were urged to organize so that they could be 
represented at the national convention. A little later the Massa- 
chusetts and Ohio charters were revoked, because a majority in 


both organizations had voted to affiliate with the left wing; in 
both states the right-wing minority was recognized. By these 
measures the national executive committee reduced the member- 
ship of the Socialist Party to less than half of what it had been 
on May Day. The committee also ruled that the elections that 
had taken place were invalid. The left wing had elected all four 
international delegates— Reed receiving the largest number of 
votes— and twelve out of fifteen members of the national execu- 
tive committee. The existing committee, which was supposed to 
retire June 30, announced that it would remain in office until the 
emergency convention, called for August 30. 

The members of the left wing were indignant. Reed was not 
amused by the irony of a leadership that defended democracy 
by disregarding the will of the majority and that used Tam- 
many tactics to maintain its power; he was angry. He believed 
that the rank and file of the Socialist Party were ready for a 
new revolutionary policy. The adoption of this policy he re- 
garded as important, whether the revolution came in five or in 
twenty-five years. It was easy for Hillquit to say that the leaders 
of the left wing were thinking in terms of Russia, and it was 
true that many of them advocated policies that were entirely 
inappropriate to the American situation. But the fundamental 
concepts of Leninism that Reed adhered to had not been created 
in the stress of the Bolshevik uprising; they had been stated by 
Lenin as early as 1901 in What Is to Be Done? They derived, 
indeed, from what Marx had said in The Civil War in France 
'in 1871 and The Critique of the Gotha Program in 1875. Their 
first statement had been made by Marx and Engels in the Com- 
munist Manifesto of 1848. 

Reed had known for a long time that it was the breakdown 
of capitalism that created a revolutionary situation, but he had 
learned in Russia that only a proletariat that was led by a disci- 
plined, clear-thinking, Marxist party could take advantage of the 
breakdown. The Bolshevik Party of Russia had not suddenly 
sprung out of the chaos of the spring of 1917; it had been shaped 
for twenty years by Lenin’s Marxist insight, tested in the revolu- 
tion of 1905, and prepared by a decade of action for its task. 
On the other hand, the kind of thinking that Hillquit, Germer, 



Waldman, and the other officials were doing, and the policies 
they recommended, had proven a failure in every country of 
Europe. It was foolish to argue as to when the revolution would 
come; the important thing was to prepare for it; certainly it 
would never come if no one was ready. 

In the first three months after publication, nine thousand copies 
of Ten Days That Shook the World were sold. The book 
had been surprisingly well reviewed in the Philadelphia Public 
Ledger, the Los Angeles Times, the New York American, the 
New York Sun, and the Review of Reviews. Several papers, fol- 
lowing the lead of the New York Times, reviewed it with John 
Spargo’s Bolshevism, using Spargo to offset Reed. Others, adopt- 
ing the tactics that Spargo himself employed in the Tribune, 
praised it as reporting but da m ned its interpretation. Only a 
few reviews were completely hostile: the Chicago Tribunals re- 
viewer took the occasion to pray for the sudden death of Lenin 
and Trotsky, and the Boston Transcript’s asked why Liveright 
had stooped so low as to publish the volume. 

With the May 15 issue of the New York Communist, Reed 
began a series of articles entided, “Why Political Democracy 
Must Go.” Like all of his theoretical writing, the series was 
not brilhant, but it was serious and thoughtful. The first article 
traced the rise of the labor movement, interpreting the policies 
of the A.F. of L. in terms of American economic conditions. 
The second, concerned with Socialism in America, was a brief 
historical survey, preparing the way for the discussion in the- 
third and fourth of parliamentary Socialism and the failure of 
Congressmen London and Berger and Mayors Lunn and Van 
Lear. The last two articles described the capitalist nature of the 
state, both in terms of the origin of the nation and in terms of 
the contemporary situation. 

Sketchy as the articles were, they showed Reed’s appreciation 
of Marxism as a method of interpreting history and his under- 
standing of the importance of re-examining the American past. 
He knew far too httle about American history— one of the sub- 
jects that his preparatory school teachers had managed to make 
hopelessly duU— to construct a convincing analysis, but he had 


caught a glimpse of the interplay of social forces in the growth 
of the United States. And in the closing articles, as well as in 
another piece he wrote for the Communist, “The I.W.W. and 
Bolshevism,” he showed how thoroughly he had learned the les- 
son of the Russian revolution. Repeating the arguments of 
Lenin’s State and. Revolution, he defended the dictatorship of 
the proletariat as the necessary instrument of the revolution— in 
Russia, the United States, or anywhere else. 

On June i6 he went to Atlantic City for the convention 
of the American Federation of Labor. The convention had met 
on June 9, with the usual congratulatory telegram from the Pres- 
ident of the United States and the usual attack on the Reds by 
Gompers. There was much debate on a motion for the recogni- 
tion of Russia, and Wilfred Humphries attempted to get the 
floor to tell about the Soviet government. Fading in this, he 
arranged a separate meeting on Russia, and wired Reed, asking 
him to come and speak. Unfortunately, Humphries innocently 
hired a hall in a non-union hotel, and the ofScials, using this as 
an excuse, demanded a boycott of the meeting. There was a fair 
attendance, but with very few delegates. The next day the con- 
vention voted to urge the withdrawal of troops from Europe, 
especially Russia, but defeated the motion for recognition. 

The few days at Atlantic City gave Reed the first rest he had 
had in many months, and— far more important to him than rest 
—a chance to swim. With Carl Sandburg, who was reporting the 
convention for the Chicago Daily News, Bill Gropper, and Louis 
Stark, he went swimming twice a day. There was also an oppor- 
tunity for a satirical expression of the contempt he had long felt for 
the leadership of the federation. In an article for the Liberator, 
illustrated by Bill Gropper, he described Gompers, sitting in his 
“tall, carved, grand-ducal chair,” as “the most grotesque figure 
that ever presided at any human gathering— squat, with the face 
of a conceited bull-frog, the sparse gray hair hanging from his 
bald head in wisps, as if it were glued on.” After portraying 
the ofiicials one by one, he summed them up; “They were ex- 
pensively dressed, and their figures portly. Long absence from 
their trades had filled out the hoUows of their cheeks, leaving 
heavy jowls, and the strong lines made by hard work coarsened 



and overlaid with self-indulgent fat. Sinister suggestions of graft, 
of murderous violence bought and paid for, of political trading, 
of strikes betrayed, union treasuries looted, hung about them.” 
And with all the sharp vividness there was sound analysis. He 
called the article “The Convention of the Dead.” 

Reed returned to New York for the left-wing conference, 
which had been initiated by revolutionary groups in Boston and 
Cleveland. It began on June 21 with ninety-four delegates 
from twenty states in attendance. William Bross Lloyd, of Chi- 
cago, was chosen chairman, and Reed was elected to the com- 
mittee on labor. The report of the committee, which was 
accepted by the conference, stated: “The purpose of the left- 
wing organization is to create a revolutionary working-class 
movement in America, which, through the action of the working 
masses themselves, will lead to workers’ control of industry 
and the state, as the only means of expropriating capitalist prop- 
erty and abolishing classes in society. . . . With the legislatures, 
courts, police, and armies under control of the capitalists, the 
workers can only win the state power by extra-parliamentary 
action, which must have its basis in the industrial mass action of 
the workers.” The report called for revolutionary industrial 
unionism, the organization of shop-committees and workers’ 
councils, and the formation of a permanent labor committee 
with the power to issue a general propaganda periodical for the 
special purpose of reaching workers on their jobs. Reed was 
appointed to this committee and was given charge of the paper 
it proposed to publish. 

Although there was no disagreement about revolutionary 
principles, the conference of the left wing was not harmonious. 
Certain delegates, especially those who represented the foreign- 
language federations, had despaired of winning over the Socialist 
Party, and proposed to issue at once a call for a convention to 
organize a Communist Party. Reed hotly opposed this, believing 
that it was still possible to depose the bureaucrats of the party 
and to re-organize it as a revolutionary instrument. The call for 
a separate convention would, he argued, antagonize those mem- 
bers who, without supporting the policies of the right wing, de- 
sired to preserve the unity of the party. 


The proposal for the immediate organization of a new party 
was defeated by a vote of fifty-five to thirty-eight. Thirty-one 
delegates, representing the Slavic federations and the state of 
Michigan, withdrew from the conference. Reed and the other 
members of the majority went on with their plans for forging 
a revolutionary party. Before the conference adjourned on June 
24, it elected a national council to conduct its affairs in the 
interval before the emergency convention of August 30. It also 
announced another left-wing conference, to meet in Chicago 
August 31, which would support the Socialist Party if the left 
wing had won control, and otherwise would organize a Com- 
munist Party. As a theoretical basis for the activities of the left 
wing, the council issued a long manifesto, analyzing the effects 
of the war, the collapse of the Second International, the develop- 
ment of Socialism in America, and the rise of the left wing, and 
discussing the problems of political and industrial action and the 
nature of proletarian dictatorship. 

On July 7, the group that had withdrawn from the left-wing 
conference published in Novy Mir a call for a national conven- 
tion to organize a Communist Party. It attacked the majority 
of the left wing as “centrists, struggling for a false unity.” The 
majority, in reply, charged the minority with desertion. Fraina, 
writing in the Revolutionary Age, pointed out that the majority 
had always intended to organize a new party if it proved im- 
possible to rescue the SociaHst Party from the right wing, and 
jeered at the inconsistency of the alliance between the Slavic 
federations and what he called the Menshevik Michigan organ- 
ization. The minority proceeded to issue a paper, which they 
called the Communist, the New York Communist having been 
combined with the Revolutionary Age. “Those who realize,” 
this new Communist said, “that the capturing of the Socialist 
Party as such is but an empty victory will not hesitate to respond 
to our call and leave the right and center to sink together with 
their ‘revolutionary’ leaders.” 

So bitterness grew. Reed pawned his watch and he and Louise 
went to Truro on Cape Cod for a few weeks with their Port- 
land friends, Carl and Helen Walters, who had recently come 
east. For a little while he seemed as carefree as he had ever been. 



spending long hours swimming and lying on the dunes. He did 
not spend much time with the people in Provincetown, but he 
walked over one evening to talk with Susan GlaspeU and George 
Cram Cook. “I wish I could stay here,” he said. “Maybe it wiU 
surprise you, but what I really want is to write poetry.” They 
asked him why he didn’t. “I’ve promised too many people,” he 

It was true: John Reed was committed. He could not turn 
back now; all he could do was to look ahead. He regretted noth- 
ing, knowing that he could not have done differently. Indeed, 
he had constantly enjoyed himself. But aU this activity was ex- 
traneous to his main purpose. It was necessary, and he had to do 
his share, but he longed for a time when it would be possible not 
merely for him but for all poets to write poetry. 

He could not stay long in Truro; there was too much to be 
done in New York. After the combination of the New York 
Communist with the Revolutionary Age, he was at first, because 
of a misunderstanding, not a member of the staff, but Fraina soon 
made him a contributing editor with a salary. At the same time 
he made preparations for the first issue of the Voice of Labor, 
the journal of the labor committee of the left wing, and wrote 
for it a long article on shop committees in Russia. 

At the end of July the unofficial executive committee, made 
up of the left-wing Socialists who had received the majority vote 
in the spring elections, met in Chicago. It announced that Reed, 
Fraina, Ruthenberg, and Wagenknecht had been elected inter- 
national delegates and Kate Richards O’Hare international secre- 
tary. Germer, the official executive secretary, was requested to 
turn over national headquarters to this committee, and a motion 
was passed, stating, “We declare the office of national executive 
secretary vacant, inasmuch as the present incumbent violates his 
functions by refusing to tabulate the vote on referendums ex- 
pressing the wiU of the membership, and refuses to recognize the 
regularly elected N.E.C.” Alfred Wagenknecht was appointed 
temporary executive secretary. The committee also voted to re- 
instate the expelled and suspended organizations and to affiliate 
with the Communist International. 


All this was, of course, merely a gesture, but a significant one 
insofar as it showed a determination to carry out to the end the 
attempt to capture the Sociahst Party. Since several members of 
this unofiicial national executive committee were also members 
of the national council of the left whig, which represented the 
majority group at the June conference, the council seemed to be 
further committed to the policy the conference adopted. But 
almost immediately after the new N.E.C. meeting, representa- 
tives of the council began negotiations with representatives of the 
Slavic federations, who made certain compromises. The result 
was a majority vote in the national council to support the call 
for a Communist Party convention. Although the council con- 
tinued to urge left-wing members to attend the emergency con- 
vention of the Socialist Party, the fact that they were committed 
to a separate convention and the organization of a new party, 
regardless of the outcome of the Socialist convention, meant 
that their old position had been abandoned. 

On August 23, the Revolutionary Age carried the joint call 
for a Communist Party convention, to be held in Chicago Sep- 
tember I. The same issue announced the resignation of Reed, 
Gitlow, and MacAlpine in protest against the action of the 
national council. The members of the council who signed the 
joint call, Ruthenberg, Fraina, Cohen, and the others, justified 
their action on the ground that it was the only way to preserve 
the unity of the left wing. To Reed, however, it seemed a funda- 
mental abandonment of principle. Not only did he believe that 
the plan of working as long as possible within the Socialist Party 
was sound; he held that the national council had been committed 
to this program by all the preparations for the left-wing con- 
ference, by the conference itself, and by the steps that had been 
taken since the conference. 

Certainly the joint call did not achieve the unity of the left 
wing. The Slavic federations, the officials of the expelled Michi- 
gan organization of the Socialist Party, and now the majority 
of the National Council of the Left Wing had agreed that a 
Communist Party must be formed. But the minority of the coun- 
cil was opposed to this decision, and in this respect the minority 
almost certainly represented a majority of the members of the 



left wing, exclusive of those who belonged to the Slavic federa- 
tions. Moreover, the left wing had had many sympathizers who 
remained in the Socialist Party, and there were many other 
members who might in time have been won for a Communist 
program. The decision to form a Communist Party, without 
waiting for whatever action might be taken by the national 
emergency convention of the Socialist Party, confused and 
offended a number of these sympathizers, and the animosity that 
developed between the two factions of the left wing completed 
their alienation. 

That was the situation when, on August 30, the national 
emergency convention, the first to be held since the St. Louis 
meeting in 1917, opened in Chicago. Reed and some eighty mem- 
bers of the left wing arrived early at Machinists’ Hall and held 
a caucus, in which it was decided that they should simply invade 
the convention without arguing about credentials. “The way to 
get the hall,” Reed said, “is to go and get it.” They marched 
upstairs and were met at the door by Julius Gerber, secretary 
of the New York local, who had charge of seating arrangements. 
An altercation followed, in which talk led to a brief flourish of 
fists. One observer remarked that Gerber could have Hcked Reed 
if Reed hadn’t held him so far up in the air that he couldn’t 
reach down. Gerber was reported to have said that he made 
Reed understand that swinging a sledge-hammer with the prole- 
tariat was as good training as playing football in coEege. In any 
case, Reed and his left-wing followers entered the haU. 

A few minutes later Adolph Germer, national executive secre- 
tary, arrived, accompanied by two policemen. After requesting 
the left-wing delegates to leave, he turned to the officers and 
asked them to clear the hall. Once Reed and his followers had 
been ejected, Germer declared the convention open. There was 
applause when he said, “We intend to follow the splendid 
example set by our comrades in Russia,” but silence met his 
qualification, “I want it distinctly understood that we do not 
intend to adopt the same methods.” Much of his speech con- 
sisted in proving by references to the St. Louis platform that 
the party was really revolutionary. The leaders of the left wing 
he denounced as thieves and gangsters. 


While Jack Reed, hatless and wearing a picturesque Norfolk 
jacket, led the expelled delegates to another room downstairs, 
the convention proceeded to elect a temporary chairman. Sey- 
mour Stedman was the candidate of the right wing and J. M. 
Coldwell of the left. The party, it should be remembered, had 
been reduced from 109,589 members to 39,750, and the expelled 
members were all supporters of the left wing. Every delegation, 
moreover, had been carefuUy scrutinized, and several had been 
unseated though they came from states that had not been ex- 
pelled. Finally, the national executive committee had permitted 
the right wing in expelled states to elect the number of dele- 
gates to which the membership of January i would have en- 
titled them, so that, for example, Michigan’s 139 right-wing So- 
cialists had seven delegates, the quota due 3500. And in spite 
of all this, Coldwell received thirty-seven votes to Stedman’s 

Even after Coldwell had marched out thirty delegates, in 
protest against the refusal of the convention to make the exam- 
ination of contested elections the first order of business, there 
remained considerable sentiment against the party bureaucracy. 
Again and again delegates protested against the use of police. 
“I just heard one of these policemen threaten to throw a com- 
rade downstairs,” a delegate stated, “and he said, ‘You won’t 
light on your feet either, you’ll think you came down in an air- 
plane.’ I ask you if this is the way visiting Socialists are going 
to be treated by this convention.” “What kind of Socialists are 
they?” a New York official asked. The Chicago machinists, in 
whose hall the convention was meeting, protested against the 
presence of police. Claessens, Hoan, and Berger defended Ger- 
mer’s action. “We in Milwaukee,” Berger said, “would have 
done it a good deal better than Germer did, because we have 
our own police. If the poKce had not been here, we would not 
be here now. The two-fisted Reed and the other two-fisted left 
wingers would be here.” 

The remainder of the sessions were for the most part devoted 
to self-justification on the part of the officials. Judge Panken of 
New York denounced the left wing as “a bunch of anarchists,” 
and other speakers followed his lead. Nevertheless, the conven- 



tion refused to be satisfied by the national executive commit- 
tee’s explanation of its expulsions and suspensions and voted an 
investigation. It also voted to bring before the membership by 
referendum a minority as well as a majority report on inter- 
national relations. The minority report called for affihation with 
the Communist International, whereas the other proposed the 
formation of a new international, which the Communist Party 
of Russia should be invited to join. A national executive com- 
mittee, composed with one exception of new members, was 

While the regular convention was proving how much militancy 
existed among the rank and file, the left-wing delegates, includ- 
ing both those who had been expelled and those who had left 
in protest, met, on the evening of the thirty-first, in another 
room of the same building. There was no machine here, and the 
session was often disorderly, but it was enthusiastic, spontaneous, 
alive. The gathering proclaimed itself the true national emer- 
gency convention of the Socialist Party, and elected Owens of 
Illinois as chairman. After sending greetings to Debs and the 
other class-war prisoners, the delegates discussed the question of 
left-wing unity. C. E. Ruthenberg, who was present despite the 
fact that he had signed the Communist call, urged the delegates 
not to organize a party until after the Communist Party conven- 
tion had met. This raised the issue that was uppermost in many 
minds, the issue of submission to the Slavic federations. Jack 
Carney declared that, if the convention went over to the federa- 
tions, he would go home and tell the workers of Duluth that 
there was no revolutionary party in existence. Reed proposed to 
amend Ruthenberg’s suggestion by proclaiming this the party 
of Communism and inviting all other revolutionary groups to 
join it. With some changes, his motion was adopted. 

The next morning, while Reed’s group proceeded to the 
routine business of electing committees, the Communist Party 
opened its sessions. Just as Dennis E. Batt, one of the Michigan 
delegates, was about to proclaim the convention opened, police 
arrived, arrested Batt, and destroyed decorations and placards. 
Rose Pastor Stokes cried, “They are arresting our comrades— 


three cheers for the revolution.” “Shut up,” the police-sergeant 
shouted; “it’s always a woman that starts the trouble.” 

The Communist Party convention showed no desire to con- 
ciliate the other section of the left wing, and Reed and his as- 
sociates felt there was nothing to do but form a separate party. 
On September 2 this was done. The delegates, meeting in the 
I.W.W. hall on Throop Street, proclaimed themselves the Com- 
munist Labor Party. John Reed was made chairman of the com- 
mittee to draw up a program, and it was his report that precipi- 
tated the principd struggle of the convention. For this gathering, 
too, was divided. On the one hand, there were those who wanted 
to create a revolutionary party, based on the teachings of Marx 
and guided by the experience of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. On 
the other were persons who had left the Socialist Party chiefly 
as a protest against the high-handed conduct of its oflicials, and 
who were a little afraid of too concrete a commitment to revo- 

Reed’s program called for the training of the working class 
for the seizure of power. Margaret Prevey was among those who 
objected. “We must use political power in order to get a hear- 
ing for the working class,” she insisted. “I want to see a working- 
class judge to pass sentence upon the workers, a working-class 
jailor to open the doors of the prisons for the working class. I 
want to see the working class get control of the police and the 
United States army, so that they can be used on the side of the 
workers, instead of against them in their industrial battles.” 

Reed rose, gave a hitch to his pants, and answered her in his 
one burst of oratory. “When the Socialist mayor of Minneap- 
olis,” he told her, “wanted to use the police to protect the 
ineeting of the workers, his policemen were superseded by a 
body of special deputies appointed by the governor of the state. 
When a radical governor of Illinois, Governor Altgeld, tried to 
use the state power to protect the workers in the Pullman strike 
in Chicago, Groyer Cleveland sent the United States army into 
Illinois to protect capital. And if you had a Socialist president in 
the place of Grover Cleveland, the Supreme Court would come 
to the prot^iion of capital. And if you had a Socialist Supreme 
Court, J. P. Morgan would organize a volunteer White Guard, 


and the interests of capital would still be protected. So it wili 
always be. The struggle is between economic forces and cannot 
be settled on the political field.” 

Another of Reed’s opponents was Louis Boudin, of New 
York, famed as a student of Marx. Boudin laughed at one of the 
phrases Reed had incorporated in the platform. Reed said noth- 
ing, but left the building, returning with a copy of the Com- 
munist Manifesto, in which he showed Boudin the precise words 
to which he had objected. Boudin was completely routed when 
Ben Gitlow rose, and accused him of using his knowledge of 
Marx to destroy the integrity of the platform. In its fundamen- 
tals, Reed’s program was adopted. “Wonderful convention,” he 
wired Louise Bryant that night; “everything going fine.” 

After that, after it had been decided that the Communist 
Labor Party was a revolutionary party, the sessions did go 
smoothly, so smoothly that they sometimes failed to hold Reed’s 
interest. One afternoon he got hold of Sherwood Anderson, 
who was living in Chicago, and showed him some unpublished 
poems. Anderson liked them, and his saying so pleased Reed. 
After they had talked for a time in a toilet, in the convention 
building, Reed said, “Hell, Sherwood, they’ve got to the resolu- 
tions stage up there; let’s go out in the park.” They walked for 
half an hour, talking about poetry, until Reed said, “Well, well, 
that’s enough of this. I guess I’d better get back in there and see 
what’s doing.” 

The party accepted the principles of the Third International, 
proclaimed the dictatorship of the proletariat as its aim, and 
adopted a program of action. Although its manifesto differed in 
no fundamental way from that of the Co mmunis t Party, nego- 
tiations for the merger of the two groups were futile. The Slavic 
federations, even after the English-speaking delegates to the 
Communist convention had brought strong pressure, would 
agree to no compromise that threatened their power. After elect- 
ing officers, with Wagenknecht as executive secretary and Reed 
as an international delegate, and after making a standing offer to 
discuss unity with the Communist Party, the convention of the 
Communist Labor Party adjourned. 

Returning to New York, Reed, though troubled by the divi- 


sion of revolutionary forces, was elated. In the conventions he 
had felt the stirring of the revolutionary spirit in America, and 
he had no doubt that unity would soon be achieved. The con- 
vention of the Communist Labor Party, because it had been so 
loosely organized, had given him a constant sense of the up- 
welling of spontaneous zeal. At the same time, discipline, whose 
importance he had learned to recognize, had not been absent. It 
had given him satisfaction to be a part of all this, and not an un- 
important part. He felt that things were moving, and he was glad. 


Revolutionary’s Return 

F or two or three weeks Reed spent most of his time in the 
New York office of the Communist Labor Party. Although 
two months remained before the party was outlawed by 
the United States government, the operations of the city police, 
federal agents, vigilantes, and the Lusk committee forced Reed 
and his companions to work with as much secrecy as possible. 
Carlo Tresca, who was editing an Italian paper in a deserted 
building on Twelfth Street, invited them to share his hiding- 
place with him, and an issue of the Voice of Labor was brought 
out in this vacant loft. Every night there were meetings, held in 
the homes of sympathizers, at which Reed reported on the con- 

The conflict between the two Communist parties sent Reed 
to Russia late in September. Each party was convinced that it 
was truly Communist and that the other was the obstacle to 
unity of the revolutionary forces. Since both parties were eager 
to affiliate with the Communist International, and since the rec- 
ognition of one by the International would discredit the other, 
both hastened to send emissaries to Moscow. Reed, as a regularly 
elected international delegate, was chosen to represent the Com- 
munist Labor Party. 

All this was decided in the three weeks after his return from 
Chicago. They were busy weeks, spent in attending committee 
meetings, speaking to little groups of sympathizers, writing arti- 
cles, publishing the Voice of Lab or ^ and dodging the police. 
Don Marquis, riding on the top of a Fifth Avenue bus, caught 
sight of Reed on the street, and got off to speak to him. When 
Marquis asked him what he was doing, Reed laughed and said 



he was in hiding. “This is the dickens of a place to hide,” Mar- 
quis said. “None better,” Reed told him, “and besides, the red- 
hunters never catch anybody.” 

George Falconer, the Denver Sociahst who had sold Ten Days 
That Shook the World on a trip through the Rocky Mountains, 
found Reed in Croton one afternoon, in the cabin he used for 
writing. He brought him a message from Haywood, sick in 
Leavenworth. Reed showed him the great piles of Russian maga- 
zines and pamphlets and talked to him about Lenin, and they 
toasted Lenin and Bobby Bums in Scotch whiskey. 

There were a hundred things Reed wanted to do. He wanted 
to write poetry. (In her listing of the year’s awards Harriet 
Monroe had given honorable mention to “Proud New York,” 
the fragment of “America, 1918” she had published in Poetry.) 
He wanted to write From Kornilov to Brest-Litovsk, his second 
book about the Russian revolution. He wanted to build the 
Communist Labor Party. But what he had to do, what the mo- 
ment obviously demanded of him, was to return to Russia. He 
was not sorry that he would find out what the Bolsheviks had 
done in a year and a half, and he was as eager as any one else 
to win for the Communist Labor Party the recognition of the 
International, but he would not have chosen to return at just 
that time. The decision was taken out of his hands; he was 
doing his revolutionary duty. 

There was no possibility, of course, of his going as a passen- 
ger or under his own name. He went as a stoker on a Scandina- 
vian ship. A few friends accompanied him to the dock, and he 
was fuU of laughter at his rough clothes and the bundle slung 
over his shoulder. It was nine years since he had last worked his 
way across the Atlantic, on the cattleboat Bostonian. He was a 
different John Reed, and in body as well as mind, for he had 
never entirely recovered from the removal of his kidney, and 
irregular habits of eating, drinking, and sleeping had weakened 
him. It would be a different kind of voyage, too: no tents on 
deck, no special favors, no extra food; just the ordinary fare of 
an ordinary stoker. But he was as gay as if he were a college 
boy starting out for a summer’s sport, not a police-hunted revo- 
lutionary, bound for a land of famine and civil war, which he 


could reach only by passing through the hostile armies that 
surrounded it. 

It was a slow and arduous trip across the ocean, but Reed 
found that the hard work agreed with him. Jim Gormley was 
the name on his seaman’s identification card, and his companions 
in the stokehold had no complaints about Jim’s doing his share 
of the work. They knew that he was not altogether what he 
pretended to be, but that did not trouble them. They were not 
particularly surprised when, at Bergen, he went ashore and did 
not come back. It was not the first time such things had hap- 

Reed reached Christiania in the middle of October, and imme- 
diately got in touch with left-wing Socialists in the city. He 
found that the police had become more vigilant in arresting 
men without proper credentials, and of course even Jim Gorm- 
ley’s papers were not in order since his desertion of the ship. 
As quickly as possible, he placed the documents he was carrying 
in safe keeping, and then devoted himself, before he took the 
next stage of his trip, to discovering the situation in Norway 
and the rest of Europe. 

Before he left Christiania, he managed to send a letter to 
Louise Bryant by courier, a strange letter, full of personal en- 
dearments for her and of news for the leaders of the C.L.P. 
“From now on,” he wrote, “it seems to me we must never be 
separated. . . . This is not altogether a joke trip, but more or 
less a grim business. . . . The Communist Party will get no sym- 
pathy here or anywhere in Scandinavia. I am the big cheese in 

these parts The Voice of Labor is greatly admired here. . . . 

I was never in better health and am doing well. . . . Write me 
very seldom. Inform mother I am well. Back before Christmas, 
I hope.” 

But the body of the letter described political conditions. The 
Russian situation he called heartrending. The report that Yude- 
nitch had taken Petrograd, which he had heard on his arrival in 
Christiania, had been denied by the time he wrote, but the city 
had nearly fallen. Denikin, moreover, was withi n two hundred 
and fifty miles of Moscow. “In Hungary,” he wrote, “thanks 
to the American Food Controller, who smashed the Hungarian 


Soviet government, there is at present the most terrible white 
terror.” In Germany, on the other hand, the Communists seemed 
to be gaining. In Norway and Sweden the left wing controlled 
the Socialist Party, but, he explained, “there can be no revolu- 
tion in Scandinavia and other small countries until the great 
capitalist countries go, for these small countries have to import 
their food and could be starved at once.” 

On the night of October 22, Reed crossed the boundary into 
Norway on foot. In Christiania he had met Hungarians, Finns, 
Russians, and Letts who had performed prodigies of heroism in 
going to and from Russia. They told him of comrades who had 
been shot and others who had been arrested. But he reached 
Stockholm without mishap, and remained there for more than 
a week. Again he studied the revolutionary forces, and again he 
realized the peculiar complexity of the situation. Once more he 
managed to write Louise, mingling expressions of his affection 
and his sorrow at their separation with news of radical progress 
in Scandinavia and of developments in Russia. And as usual he 
made new friends, friends who would always remember him de- 
spite the briefness of their meeting. 

On the first of November, comrades helped him to stow away 
on a ship bound for Finland. All through the hours of that Baltic 
crossing he lay huddled in a pile of greasy rags, without food or 
drink. When the ship was near Abo, he climbed, as he had been 
instructed, into a shaft that led from the engine-room to the 
deck, and for four horns he clung to the rails of the ladder. Gusts 
of hot air came from below, and as the steam condensed on the 
brass plate above his head, drops of water fell on him. Feet shuf- 
fled across the plate, and he could hear men talking and cough- 
ing. Once there was the gleam of flashlights below him-Finnish 
police looking for just such stowaways as he. 

At last he heard somebody hiss sharply in the silence below. 
Stiff and dizzy he climbed down. A match was lighted, and he 
found his overcoat in the pile of rags. “Quick, Christ’s sake, 
quick!” a voice said. A hand took his, and he mounted a ladder 
and a companion-way, and came out on the snowy deck. Two 
steam-cranes were dipping into the forward hold, and longshore- 


men were heaving at great packing-cases, said to be parts of 
tanks to be used in the attack on Petrograd. 

Seeing soldiers and policemen on the dock, Reed remembered 
that this was Finland, land of the broken revolution, country of 
bourgeois terror. Two worlonen were supposed to be on the 
dock to meet him. They would recognize him from a descrip- 
tion that had been given them, and, when they saw him, they 
would walk away. He was to follow. He saw workmen, but 
there were half a dozen of them, and none seemed to be look- 
ing for him. His guide led him to the gangway, saw a policeman, 
and pulled him back. As they retreated, Reed felt the hand in his 
trembling. Hurrying through the ship, they came at last to the 
cargo-deck, where men were rigging the tackle of the great 
cranes. “Go,” his companion whispered, and pushed Reed into 
the busy throng of men. 

He walked across the gangplank, shoving past the customs 
officials as if he were one of the crew attending to his job. A 
policeman eyed him suspiciously, but he hurried on. Two men 
detached themselves from a group of loafers and walked away. 
Reed followed, pulling his coat collar about his black, oily face. 
In the little market-square he saw two young men in shining 
boots, long, dark gray coats with green facings, swords, and 
peaked caps. On his left arm each had a broad white band, with 
a monogram in a black circle— S.K., symbol of the Salvation 
Corps, the bourgeois militia which had provoked the red insur- 
rection and then, with the help of the Germans, ruthlessly put 
it down, murdering twenty thousand workers after they had 

The men Reed was following walked steadily on, through 
wide, rough-cobbled streets, until at last they came to the out- 
skirts of the town. They looked back over their shoulders, but 
made no sign. When they turned into a court-yard gate, he 
went after them into a dimly lighted little haU-way. Frightened 
and surprised, they stared at him. “Woodrow Wilson,” he said, 
giving the appointed password. They looked at him in bewilder- 
ment, and one of them sharply asked a question in Finnish. 
“Woodrow Wilson,” Reed said again, and gave the name of the 
boat he had come on. They shook their heads. One of them 


muttered to the other, who unlocked a door. In a moment they 
were inside, and Reed heard the key turn. 

He was alone, without a passport, in a country whose lan- 
guage he did not know, and whose government was bitterly 
hostile to Russia, and he had failed to find his guides. There was 
nothing to do but go back to the dock, risking arrest, and look 
for the right men. This time he found them, frantic with anx- 
iety, and they took him to the home of a Finnish writer, 
woman whose Bolshevik sympathies were not suspected. She 
fed him and put him in bed, and a day or two later helped him 
to reach Helsingfors. 

In Helsingfors there was another comfortable home for him 
to stay in. He was impatient because he had been so long de- 
layed, but he learned that it had been fortunate. Sudden police 
raids had captured the entire Communist organization in Viborg, 
and if he had been there, he would certainly have been jailed. 
Because of the disorganization of Viborg, there was nothing for 
him to do but remain for a fortnight in Helsingfors. He man- 
aged to write another letter to Louise, sending it by a messenger 
to be mailed in Stockholm. “I fret and fume,” he wrote, “at my 
delay, and spend my time thinking of my honey and wanting 
her.” He told of two Norwegian intellectuals who had praised 
her Six Red Months in Russia. “I have told everybody how my 
honey broke the Overman blockade,” he said, “and shall tell 
at headquarters. Am very well and happy and still expect to be 
with you before Christmas. Don’t try to come this way. It 
would be ghastly for you just now.” 

While Reed waited impatiently in Finland, his departure was 
discovered in New York. On November 8, led by the Lusk com- 
mittee, seven hundred policemen raided seventy-one Communist 
Party and Communist Labor Party headquarters in New York 
City, seizing several tons of literature and arresting thirty-five 
men. Examination of C.L.P. records revealed that Reed was on 
his way to Moscow. This Lusk committee onslaught followed 
by one day A. Mitchell Palmer’s raid on the Russian People’s 
House, in which hundreds of Russian workmen were beaten 
with blackjacks. The series of raids, arrests, deportations, hjis- 
terical convictions, and long sentences that was to mar k the 


winter of 1919-20 had begun. It was not only in Finland that 
there was a white terror. 

At last the time came when the comrades felt that it was safe 
for Reed to move towards the Finnish-Russian front. Passed on 
from sympathizer to sympathizer, he was guided safely through 
the lines, and finally he reached the headquarters of the Red 
Army. In the quarters of the agitation committee there were 
several young men and a girl, who welcomed Reed. An officer, 
who lay asleep across four chairs, woke up and greeted him. The 
girl made coffee. Reed was tired, but it was so cold that he could 
not sleep. The officer lay down again on the chairs, waking from 
time to time as sentries arrived to make their reports. All through 
the night there was the sound of firing not far off. Occasionally 
one of the men spoke to Reed, but they all seemed busy with 
their various duties. Reed gathered that they were engaged in 
smuggling supplies from Finland. After the girl explained that 
the coffee was all gone, he sat and shivered until morning. 

Soon after sunrise he was driven in a sleigh to the railroad. 
Along the road cavalry and artillery were marching towards the 
front, and there were sentries every few hundred yards. For 
miles camouflage experts had been at work, creating the ap- 
pearance of a great forest, to protect the road. The station was 
crowded, mostly with soldiers. Reed noticed that, where the 
shrine used to be, there were revolutionary proclamations and 
posters. When the train came, his companions bade him fare- 
well, and he started on the last stage of his journey to Petrograd. 

It was nearly two years since he had left it, and during those 
years the country had been constantly at war. Scarcely had the 
treaty of Brest-Litovsk been signed when a brigade of Czecho- 
slovak troops, moving from Kiev to Vladivostok, with the 
intention of sailing for France, had involved themselves in hostil- 
ities against the Soviets and had become the center of counter- 
revolutionary organization. Allied intervention had quickly fol- 
lowed, and Archangel and Murmansk had been captured in the 
summer of 1918. After the signing of the armistice, the French 
and British governments had been able to give more support to 
the anti-Bokhevik forces, and in the spring of 1919 Kolchak 



drove far into Soviet territory in Siberia, and Denikin pushed 
northward from the Black Sea. It was the concentration of the 
Red Army on these fronts that made impossible the sending of 
aid to the Soviet governments in Hungary and the Baltic coun- 
tries, with the result that they were overthrown by bourgeois 
forces, supported by the Allies. 

While Reed was on his way from America, a change had 
come. Archangel and Murmansk were abandoned in the early 
autumn, and Yudenitch’s surprise attack on Petrograd was re- 
pulsed by an outpouring of the city’s workers. Denikin’s ad- 
vance on Moscow was checked, and his defeat made possible the 
recapture of the Ukraine. With the collapse of Kolchak’s army. 
Allied intervention in Siberia was almost at an end. 

The Soviet government had been saved, but at a dreadful cost. 
Not only had Communism been defeated in the countries to the 
west; Russia itself was so weakened that the winter of 1919-20 
would be the most terrible in its history. To all the inevitable 
difficulties of the organization of Socialism had been added the 
burden of civil war— the loss of life, the disorganization of the 
food supply, and the concentration of industry on war prepara- 
tions. France and England, fearing disorders at home, had not 
dared to send sufficient troops to destroy the Soviets, but they 
did great damage, and their blockade, which continued, de- 
prived Russia of the supplies that it needed for reconstruction. 

From Petrograd Reed went on to Moscow, where he imme- 
diately presented the case for the Communist Labor Party to the 
executive committee of the International. He found the leaders 
changed. Lenin, especially, was more genial. He chuckled and 
gestured as he talked, and hitched up his chair until his knees 
touched Reed’s. But his eyes were as terrible as ever, and Reed 
felt them boring through him. Trotsky and Kamenev both were 
plumper. Kamenev reminded Reed of a cocker spaniel and 
Karakhan of a heavy in the movies. They all listened carefully to 
what he had to say about America, particularly Lenin, who 
seemed to know exactly what was happening. 

The executive committee offered him the privileges ordinarily 
extended to distinguished guests, a special apartment and better 
food, but he refused, taking a room in the working-class sec- 



tion of the city and preparing his own meals on a little iron 
stove. He was eager to return to America, but first there had 
to be an extended discussion of the party situation, and in the 
meantime he used his opportunity to see what the new Russia 
was hke. 

It was a cruel winter in Moscow. There was never quite 
enough food. The soldiers were given the best possible treat- 
ment, and the factory employees were organized to take care 
of themselves. Clerical workers, however, were often over- 
looked, and Reed pitied them. Because of the blockade, there 
were almost no medical supphes, and sanitary conditions were 
bad and epidemics common. Although the terror, which had 
been necessary to suppress counter-revolution, was relaxing, 
stories still came of the horrors of civil warfare. 

Reed was constantly impressed by the heroism of the workers. 
The day after Christmas, he went to Serpukov to speak to dele- 
gates of all the factory shop-committees in that section. Men 
came from nules away, some walking twenty versts through the 
deep snow. In the great white haU that had once been the 
Nobles’ Club they gathered, their faces gaunt and their clothes 
ragged, to listen to Reed talk about America. They asked him 
countless questions, about wages, bread, working conditions. 
“What do American workers think of us?” they asked, and 
“Why is America so slow to get Socialist ideas?” Reed stood 
there, the one dim kerosene fight shining on his face, and talked. 
When he finished, a young worker jumped up and proposed a 
resolution: “Tell our brothers in America that for three years 
the Russian workers have been bleeding and dying for the rev- 
olution, and not our own revolution, but the world revolution. 
Tell our American comrades that we listen day and night for 
the sound of their footsteps coming to our aid. But tell them, 
too, that no matter how long it may take them, we shall hold 
firm. Never shall the Russian workers give up their revolution. 
We die for Socialism, which perhaps we shall never see.” And 
as they sang “The Internationale,” their desperate faces shone, 
though their voices were hoarse from weakness. 

Reed was also amazed at the way in which, in the midst of 
civil war, in a winter in which Moscow went for weeks without 


light and men and women froze in their apartments, the founda- 
tions were being laid for the new social order. New medical 
centers were being built aU over Russia, even in villages that had 
not had a doctor before. A great educational campaign had been 
begun to secure better sanitation. Free maternity hospitals had 
been established, free dispensaries, free centers of child-care. 
Schools were springing up everywhere, and the educational sys- 
tem was being remade. 

He talked with Lunacharsky. The thin, delicate, nervous 
Commissar for Education told him not only of what was being 
done in the schools but also of the way in which literature and 
art were being created for the enjoyment of the people. Reed 
went to the Prolet-cult center in Moscow, where, in cold studios, 
painters were at work. “Sculpture, paintings, and engravings, 
very interesting,” he wrote in his notebook. “Character all their 
own— proletarian.” He talked with Demyan Byedny, a great 
smiling man in a yellow sweater, a poet who had a million 
readers, and with Pasternak, who condemned artists too lazy to 
master their craft. No one tried to tell Reed that there had been 
a renaissance in the arts, but he recognized the vigor of a new 

Often Reed went to visit Lenin in his apartment in the Krem- 
lin, and Lenin was glad to see him, not merely because he was 
interested in conditions in the United States but also because he 
liked the gay alertness of the young American. He commended 
Reed’s decision to live in a working-class quarter, telling him it 
was the best way to learn Russian and to know Russia. He lec- 
tured him about his carelessness with regard to his health, show- 
ing a knowledge of physiology that amazed Reed. They talked 
on all sorts of topics, sometimes until dawn, and Reed felt the 
humanity as well as the greatness of the man. 

It was at Lenin’s suggestion that he prepared for the official 
organ of the Communist International a long article on the rev- 
olutionary situation in America. The first part described the 
A.F. of L.’s support of the war, the capitulation of many lead- 
ing Socialists, the persecution of the I.W.W., the rise of patrio- 
teering societies, unemployment at the end of the war, and the 
passing of laws to lega]L:e the terrorization of the working class. 



It ended, “Capitalism in America has entered the period of de- 
cay, and what will come in its place depends on the power of 
the workers. If the workers are not prepared to resist, the cap- 
itahsts will set up a military dictatorship and reduce the prole- 
tariat to slavery.” The second part, which analyzed the growing 
militancy of American labor, showed how carefully Reed had 
followed the strikes of the past two years. He described in intel- 
ligent detail the general strikes in Seattle and Winnipeg and the 
Boston police strike, discussed the Plumb plan, told what he had 
been able to learn about the steel strike, and commented on the 
policies of the A.F. of L. and the I.W.W. The concluding sec- 
tion of the article described the decline of the Socialist Party, 
which Reed dated from the resolution against direct action in 
1912, the rise of the left wing, and, with familiar acrimonious- 
ness, the spht between the Communist Party and the Commu- 
nist Labor Party. 

Subsequently he wrote an article on the I.W.W., an article 
that combined his old admiration for its spirit and his new ob- 
jections to its policies. After paying tribute to Joe Hill, Frank 
Little, and the other I.W.W. martyrs of the class struggle, he 
told the history of the organization and described the break with 
the Socialist Party. The leaders, he said, had proven themselves 
poor organizers but magnificent propagandists. The weaknesses 
of the I.W.W. he attributed, of course, to its anarcho-syndical- 
ist principles, and he outlined and refuted the objections of its 
theorists to the Marxian doctrine of the dictatorship of the prole- 
tariat. But he had not forgotten Paterson and the Chicago trial. 
“If we could reach these men,” he ended, “and make clear to 
them in their own language the position of the Communists, their 
innate common sense would show them we are right. And we 
must do that, for the I.W.W. is the vanguard of the American 
proletariat, which must lead the assault against capitalism in 

The writing of these articles was one of Reed’s duties as a 
representative of the Communist Labor Party to the Interna- 
tional and as a spokesman in Soviet Russia for the American rev- 
olutionary movement. To all of these duties he conscientiously 
devoted himself, but he was still a reporter and historian. He 


wanted to know exactly what was happening. In the dead of 
winter, the worst period of the year, the hardest winter Soviet 
Russia had known, he went out into the country to see the 
provincial towns and peasant villages. He went as far as the 
Volga, talking with every one: with pretty girls; with special- 
ists who complained over their tea about inefEciency; with a 
jocular jailer, who said he could see no sense in eating vegetables 
when there were nice fat dogs running around; with a peasant 
girl, who lamented that she could bring no dowry to her hus- 
band; with peasants who blessed the Bolsheviks and peasants 
who cursed them; with a horse-faced Englishman, who told him 
in detail why Communism couldn’t work. In Khn he attended 
a meeting of the district soviet and went to the workers’ theatre. 
In Sverdlov he watched a trial. Often he drove from village to 
village, talking with the peasants as the sleigh moved along the 
rutted roads across the great white plain. He took down statis- 
tics, furnished by the bourgeois specialists, on the production of 
wheat and potatoes, made notes on food rations, and recorded 
the number of schools. 

At last he came to the Volga. “Impressive for miles,” he wrote 
in his notebook. “Low abrupt banks. Wide meadows backed by 
dark forests, as if setting stage for river. Snow-covered ice of 
river. Fishing holes. Tracks across. The peasant sleighs. Far vil- 
lages.” In one of these villages a woman in a beautiful dress of 
peasant linen gave him and his companions dinner. When they 
thanked her, she bowed and said, “May it give you health.” He 
talked with her about rehgion, and she told him that, though 
most of the older peasants still went to church, the younger peo- 
ple did not. Her husband praised the Communists, but he did 
not belong to the party, for, he explained, he had a wife and 
three children, and he could not make the sacrifices member- 
ship demanded. In a neighboring village a peasant complained 
because he had had a horse confiscated. “This is a poor village,” 
he said. “I do not own my own house. But I did own two horses, 
and they called me bourgeois, and took one away.” Another 
peasant objected to the sovkhoz because the men employed 
there worked only eight hours a day and had more food than 



he. He had a son in the Red Army, but knew nothing of either 
Denikin or Kolchak. 

Reed returned to Moscow, more impressed than ever by the 
vastness of the change the revolution was making in Russian life. 
Wherever there were factories, he had found the workers enthu- 
siastic about the Soviet government, but the peasants were be- 
wildered. The poorest peasants were, even in such a winter, 
better off than they had been before the October revolution, but 
they found it hard to adjust themselves to the new regime. Yet 
the new schools and the new medical centers were having their 
effect on old ideas, and Reed could see how swiftly the intro- 
duction of advanced methods of production might alter rural 
life. But it would be, he knew, a long and agonizing struggle. 

In Moscow he found that the executive committee of the 
Communist International had worked out a program for the 
merging of the two American parties, to which the representa- 
tive of the Slavic federations had agreed. A committee of six, 
three representing each party, was to call a convention, to which 
delegates were to be sent on the basis of membership in local 
units. The central committee elected by this convention would 
have control of the united party, including the federations. 

Both parties had, in the meantime, been outlawed. On Decem- 
ber 21, 1919, 249 foreign-bom radicals, whose cases had been 
rushed through the Department of Labor without pretense of 
legal procedure, were deported on the Buford. On January 2, 
A. Mitchell Palmer’s agents conducted simultaneous raids on 
Communist, Communist Labor, and Socialist meeting-places 
throughout the country, arresting more than ten thousand per- 
sons. Thirty-eight members of the Communist Labor Party, 
including Reed, and eighty-five members of the Communist 
Party were, three weeks later, indicted in Chicago. A man, who 
turned out to be a respectable owner of liberty bonds, was 
arrested in Beacon, New York, as John Reed, and Illinois offi- 
cers hastened east with extradition papers. 

It was, then, with the almost complete certainty of being sent 
to prison, that Reed planned to return to the United States. He 
was already under indictment in Chicago, and, as a matter of 
fact, most of the men who were indicted with him were, the 


following August, sentenced to from one to five years. In New 
York, moreover, his former colleagues on the Revolutionary 
Age were being brought to trial for having circulated the left- 
wing manifesto, of which he had been one of the authors. Never- 
theless, when he went to greet Emma Goldman, who had 
arrived on the Buford, he was as buoyant as ever, full of enthu- 
siasm for the revolution, and somewhat irritatingly contemptu- 
ous of her doubts. He told her a little of what he had seen, of the 
heroism and of the great achievements in the midst of civil war, 
and was grateful for what she could tell him of the movement 
in the United States and for the messages she brought from 
Louise Bryant. Promising to greet her friends in America for 
heir, and to see her again in Moscow before very long, he rushed 
out of her room as impetuously as he had entered. 

Twice John Reed tried to make his way through the lines of 
Soviet Russia’s enemies, and twice he failed. The first attempt 
was made through Latvia. On his way to the Red Army, he had 
to change at a junction. For a day and a night he waited in a 
dilapidated station, five miles from the nearest village. The win- 
dows m the waiting-room were broken, and the floor was coated 
with ice, for the water-pipes had burst. On the floor and on 
tables and benches, soldiers were lying, tossing and muttering in 
the delirium of typhus. Outside, on the station platform, peasants 
piled the bodies of three hundred soldiers who had grown tired 
on the march, fallen into the snow, and frozen. And yet, in 
another room of the station, soldiers, themselves like half-frozen 
skeletons, were cheering a Communist speaker. 

The train he was expecting did not come, and soldiers warned 
him that it never would. The Red Army, they said, was retreat- 
ing, and he could not possibly get through. At last an empty 
military train arrived, bound east, and Reed crawled into a box 
car, with two soldiers, a railroad worker, and a peasant woman. 
They built a fire, and, until the bottom of the car burned out, 
managed to keep comfortable. 

It was an inglorious return, and, as soon as another plan could 
be devised, Reed made his second attempt. This time, hidden 
in the bunker of a Finnish ship bound for Sweden, he got as far 



as Abo, but there he was discovered. The Finnish authorities 
had, of course, no doubt as to his mission, but, to avoid inter- 
national comphcations, they held him on the technical charge 
of smuggling, since he was carrying with him some funds as 
weU as letters and propaganda. He was placed in solitary con- 
finement in the pohce station in Abo. 

It was early in March when he was arrested, and for the first 
month he was unable to communicate in any way with his 
friends in America. His letters to American diplomatic officials 
were undehvered or, if dehvered, were not answered. A Finnish 
liberal, Madame Aino Malmberg, secured a lawyer for him, but 
she was no more successful than he in reaching the consul. She 
did manage to send word of Reed’s arrest to an American re- 
porter, and the New York papers of March 17 carried a brief 
story, but the State Department announced that it had received 
no information and had no reason to believe he had been seized. 

Day after day Reed sat alone in his cell reading, or walked 
aimlessly about. Finally a stratagem occurred to him, and he sug- 
gested to Madame Malmberg that she should announce his death. 
On April 10 the papers in the United States carried a report that 
John Reed had been executed in Finland. The State Depart- 
ment was forced to investigate, and on April 15 it announced 
that it had definite information that he was alive. A few days 
later it gave out a statement that it would not interfere inasmuch 
as Reed had been arrested according to Finnish law. The Finnish 
government, it was reported, had discovered on his person sums 
of money and jewels worth 880,000 Finnish marks, as well as 
moving picture films, photographs, and pamphlets. He carried 
a seaman’s identification card made out to James Gormley and 
forged passports and letters made out to Samuel Arnold, Jr. 

Louise Bryant, who had doubted the stories of Reed’s arrest, 
now began frantically to act on his behalf. Bainbridge Colby, 
Secretary of State, informed her that the department would, on 
her request, cable the legation at Helsingfors to assist Reed in 
getting a lawyer. She would have to pay all expenses, and the 
department would not guarantee reliability of counsel. After 
advancing funds to pay for cables, she hastened to get in touch 
with Reed’s friends. There were many persons who, whatever 


their opinion of his politics, were unwilling to have him exe- 
cuted in Finland: Whigham and Hovey of the Metropolitan^ 
Bourke Cockran, Senator McNary, Jane Addams, George 
Kirchwey, Fred Howe, Louis Post, Arthur Garfield Hays. Even 
Reed’s uncle. General Burr, wrote a letter to the State Depart- 

By the end of April, the Finnish authorities decided to permit 
Reed to communicate with America, and on April 29, he wired 
Louise Bryant, ‘‘Nothing yet decided. Have everything neces- 
sary. Are you all right?” Four days later he wrote her a letter: 

Central Police Station 
Abo, Finland 
May 3, 1920. 

Dearest Honey- 

Last week a cable arrived from you, wanting to know about my 
case. So I know at least that you have heard of my arrest. This is 
what worried me very much— the idea that perhaps you knew noth- 
ing about me, and wondered where I was. I thought perhaps it 
would be as it was in 1918. For me it has been worse than that. I 
have heard absolutely not a word from you since I left home— 
except news of you from Emma and the other exiles, which proved 
that at any rate you were alive. I have been so fearfully worried— 
about your health, about whether you had anything to do, enough 
to eat, etc.— whether you were well or ill. You will never have an 
idea of what it has been to me— especially since I have been in here 
(now in the eighth week of solitary imprisonment). 

Now about my case. I have sent you one letter, addressed to 
Croton, and two cables. At present I am in jail, waiting for some- 
thing to happen. Up to now no charge has been laid against me, 
except that of smuggling. This case has been tried, the diamonds all 
confiscated, and I have been fined five thousand marks (about $250- 
$300). I have appealed. But this is not what keeps me in prison. It 
is the question of whether I have committed treason towards the 
Finnish state. It appears that there are ‘‘diplomatic negotiations” 
going on between the Finnish government and the United States 
government. Why, I do not know. 

Now, honey, I want you please not to influence the American 
government to help me. I mean this very seriously. I wish this case 
to be decided entirely on its merits. 

I am in good health— surprisingly good health— and almost all the 
time cheerful enough. But the thought of you drags at me some- 


times until my imagination plays tricks, and I almost go crazy. 
Please, please write me about everything. 

Don’t send me any money—I have plenty. And don't worry-- 
there’s not the slightest danger. Please let mother know of my situa- 
tion. You might send her one of these letters. I hate to ask you— but 
will you try to save my watch. That is all. I hope it won’t be long 
before we see each other again. Spring is coming and I long for 

Your loving 


Ten aays later he wrote her again, this time addressing the 
envelope to a friend. 

Central Police Station 
Abo, Finland 
May 13. 

For Louise Bryant 

Dearest Honey— 

Your dear letter of April 23rd arrived today. Evidently you have 
not yet received my two letters. I am not yet free, as you see, but 
on the other hand I am also not accused of anything. I am informed 
that the American government has demanded that I be surrendered 
to the American authorities, why I cannot understand. But I do not 
think the Finnish authorities can do this without accusing me, try- 
ing me, and finding me guilty. However, it is impossible to say what 
a bourgeois government cannot do. 

I am sending you some money today. It seems terrible that you 
should have to meet all those burdens, and I have worried myself 
sick over your health. 

I heard that you were planning to come here. If it is for the sake 
of helping me, I beg you not to do so. But if it is because you 
want to come abroad, and possibly to be with me in case I am 
delayed— and, of course, if you can find the money— do it by all 
means. But wait for a cable before you actually sail. 

I am very well. Have given up smoking for the last two months 
here, and am allowed a little walk in the yard every day. The police 
master here has really been most friendly and generous to me. As 
for the American authorities, they have of course not been near me, 
or sent any word all the time I have been here. But I am thankful 
for that. I do not want any help from the authorities as regards 


I think I understand thoroughly the situation at home, and will 
know what to do. 

I am all right, dearest, and except for the nervousness of doing 
nothing and being alone week after week, and worry about my 
honey, I am able to stand it indefinitely. 

All my love, and greetings to all. Tell Horace [Liveright] the big 
chief [Lenin] thinks my book the best. Many compliments for 


By the fifteenth, Reed had had two more letters from Louise. 
He was surprised, he told her, that so many persons had become 
interested in his case, and he could scarcely believe her assertion 
that the Department of State was trying to secure his release. “I 
am informed by the Finns,” he wrote, “that I am kept in prison 
at the request of the United States government.” No representa- 
tive of the government had ever been to see him, and only once 
had there been an inquiry, directed to his lawyer, about the 
progress of the case. “If I fail in all other ways to get a decision 
from the Finnish authorities, I shall probably try a hunger 

The threat of a hunger strike was effective, and four days 
later he was able to write Louise that he was to be released. “The 
Finns,” he explained, “are asking the American minister, Ma- 
gruder, to give me a passport. If he does— which is practically 
impossible— I shall start for Stockholm immediately, and from 
there, after learning the situation at home, I shall act accordingly. 
If he does not give me a passport, the Finnish government will 
give me notice to leave the country in twenty-four or forty- 
eight hours. The idea is, of course, if I then go to Sweden, I will 
be hustled to America without any opportunity to look around 
—more or less deported, in fact. So I have demanded, if I am to 
be told to leave the country, to go to Esthonia; I am asking a 
permit from the Esthonian government.” 

Whatever assurances Bainbridge Colby might give Louise 
Bryant, the government was apparently treating Reed as an 
enemy. William Hard, though he knew Reed but slightly, was 
one of the persons who acted in his behalf. After finding the 
Wilsonian liberals consistently evasive, he went to Bernard 


Baruch. Baruch, who was about to leave Washington for New 
York, asked him who Reed was. On being assured that he was a 
dangerous radical but indubitably an American citizen, he went 
to the State Department, though it meant missing his train, and 
demanded action. He was told that the department would im- 
mediately request the Finnish government to see that Reed was 

Whether actually anything was done in Washington, even 
then, on Reed’s behalf cannot be determined, but it seems likely 
that the State Department continued to work against him. On 
May 25, he learned that the Finnish authorities had given Amer- 
ican agents access to his papers. Certain now that his passport 
would be refused, he withdrew the request he had made to Ma- 
gruder, and asked Madame Mahnberg to arrange for his return 
to Russia by way of either Reval or Bieloostrov. He also author- 
ized her to act as his agent in the attempt to recover his papers 
from the government. Among the papers he listed letters from 
American exiles and Russians to friends in America, a preface in 
Lenin’s handwriting to Ten Days That Shook the World, vari- 
ous photographs, a number of pamphlets, and the false passports. 

As the days went on, and there was no sign of action, it be- 
came more and more difficult for Reed to remain patient. During 
the early weeks of his confinement, he had done much reading, 
but the amount of paper given him was so restricted that he 
could do no extensive writing. He did begin, on scraps of paper, 
a romantic prose-poem, called “The Ever-Victorious,” and he 
made outlines for two novels. Again and again he had made notes 
for novels, but they had never been written. Now, in a Finnish 
prison, he amused himself by making another start. One of the 
novels was to be a story of New York politics, of a reformer, a 
boss, and a Socialist. It was not to be autobiographical, although 
the central character, a reporter who became disillusioned with 
reform and associated himself with the boss, was to be given 
many of Reed’s experiences. The revolutionary movement was 
to be used as a foil to both the reformers and the boss. 

The other novel was almost purely autobiography. Although 
the hero, Robin, was to be bom in the Middle West and edu- 
cated in a small college, his parents were obviously modeled after 


Reed’s: the father identifies himself with his son and lives in his 
life; the mother is described as “loving, narrow, maternal.” After 
Robin is brought to New York, the outHne becomes httle more 
than a catalog of Reed’s experiences. “Meets Steff. Gets job on 
magazine. Phillips, Siddall, Boyden, Nock. Dutch Treat. Harry 
Kemp comes with poem. . . . Brevoort. Hippolyte Havel. Hen- 
rietta Rodman. Mary Vorse ... 42 Washington Sq. Seeger. 
Bobby Rogers. Red Lewis. Bobby Jones. Seeger lost in curious 
English poets. . . . Wash. Sq. Players. Prov. Players. . . . The 
coming of Gene O’Neill. . . . Robin in love with the doctor’s 
■wife— her salon. She rich, old. He poor. Conflict. He tries to 
leave. Wretchedness. Break . . . Death of Osgood. Death of 
Adams . . . Leo Stein’s talk. . . . Long poem (mine) on the city. 
. . . New Republic . . . Harold Stearns. Randolph Bourne. Wal- 
ter Lippmann . . . Gift-shops, guides, and village riff-raff. A 
scene in Frank Shay’s book-shop. . . . Free-speech fight. Tan- 
nenbaum and unemployed— churches. . . . Haywood, Gurley. 
. . . Collapse of the I.W.W. Joining Socialists. Branch meetings, 
street speaking, Jim Larkin. Bayonne, the break with liis paper. 
Free lancing, poverty, marriage. The war. Conscientious objec- 
tor but registers. Not called. Russian revolution and the new So- 
cialism. . . . Tortures, deportations, raids, soldier-mobs, fearful 
sentences. The raid on People’s House. The Communist Party. 
. . . Peace and Bolshevism.” 

All this was exciting to look back on, in that dismal little cell, 
where Reed never undressed at night, where— despite his assur- 
ances to Louise Bryant— the food was meager and bad, where he 
waited and hope rose and fell. He also wrote one poem, which 
he called “A Letter to Louise”: 

Rainy-rush of bird-song 
Apple blossom smoke 
Thm beUs’ water-falling sound 
Wind-rust on the silver pond 
Furry staring willow-wand 
Wan new grasses waking round 
Blue bird in the oak— 

Woven in my word-song. 



White and slim my lover 
Birch-tree in the shade 
Mountain pools her fearless eyes 
Innocent, all-answering. 

Were I blinded to the spring 
Happy thrill would in me rise 
SmilLig half-afraid 
At the nearness of her. 

All my weak endeavor 
Lay I at her feet 
Like a moth from oversea 
Let my longing lightly rest 
On her flower-petal breast 
Till the red dawn set me free 
To be with my sweet 
Ever and forever. 

But, as week after week passed by, and as freedom came close 
and drew away, impatience grew and any kind of concentration 
became impossible. After the good news of the middle of May, 
he heard nothing. There were, however, forces working for his 
liberation that he did not know about. The Soviet leaders, once 
they learned of Reed’s imprisonment, began negotiations with 
the Finnish government, not relying on diplomatic letters, but 
proposing what amounted to an exchange of prisoners. The So- 
viets held two Finnish professors arrested for counter-revolution- 
ary activities, and these they offered to exchange for Reed, 
(Lenin was reported as saying that he would gladly turn over a 
whole college faculty if he could get Reed released.) And ap- 
parently this proposal was more effective than whatever steps 
the State Department took, if, indeed, the United States govern- 
ment was not working for Reed’s detention. 

He wrote Louise: 

May 30. 

Dear Honey- 

Why did your letters stop all of a sudden? I only got two. But 
probably you thought I would soon be out. However, here I still 


sit, going on the twelfth week of imprisonment. But the end is in 
sight. The Finnish government has already notified me that I shall 
not be tried, but turned loose. I asked the American minister here 
for a passport home. He did not reply— as he has refused to answer 
all communications from me. But he told a Finnish government 
official that he would on no circumstances give me a passport. 
Therefore, rather than be brutally deported, I have asked permis- 
sion from the Esthonian government to allow me to go through 
Reval to Russia. Or at least Madame Malmberg has done it for me. 
I am given to understand that it will be done— the permission will 
be granted me; but for some strange reason no answer comes, 
although it is now ten days since I requested permission. And still 
I sit here, in the bright June weather, spending most of my time 
worrying about my honey and longing for her. 

I shall return for the present to Russia. If you can come abroad, 
do so. Get ready, but don’t start until later word from me! I shall 
send you much more definite instructions as soon as I leave here. 

I have kept very well in prison, exercising, not smoking. (I quit 
three months ago.) Have been to the dentist and had all my teeth 
fixed. Have read many serious books, but almost crazy because I 
cannot write. 

Don’t forget the interest on Croton due August i, and on Truro 
Sept. 26. Don’t forget my watch. 

Monday, May 31. Still no word from Esthonia. 

Tuesday, June i. StiU no word. It seems to me as if I shall never 
get out. The worst is to keep on expecting release day after day. 
My mind is getting duU. Honey, the house ought to be rented. 

Wednesday, June 2. Still not a whisper. It is dreadful to wait 
so, day after day— and after three months too. I have nothing to 
read, nothing to do. I can only sleep about five hours, and so am 
awake, penned in a little cage, for nineteen hours a day. This is my 
thirteenth week. 

8 P.M.— Just this minute word came! I am to go to Reval on 
Saturday’s boat from Helsingfors— or maybe I must wait until Tues- 
day. An3rway, Pm going! This is the last letter to my honey from 
this place. Wait for news from me, dearest. 

Your loving 


On the seventh he telegraphed from Reval: “Passport home 
refused. Temporarily returning headquarters. Come if possible.” 


By the Kremlin Wall 

r ' Esthonia fields were unplowed and factory chimneys 
smokeless. In Soviet Russia green crops were growing, and 
the factories were all at work. The people of Petrograd were 
not only better dressed and better fed than they had been when 
Reed left, three months before; they were stronger, happier, 
more confident. Bands played every afternoon in the parks, and 
thousands of people walked up and down or sat in little cafes 
drinking tea and coffee. The streets were clean, and the Nevsky— 
newly christened the October 25th Prospect— was being re- 
paved. At John MacLean Quay, formerly the English Quay, or 
at Jean Jaures Quay, formerly the French Quay, it was possible 
to take small river-boats up the Neva to Smolny. And on the 
islands at the mouth of the Neva, where the millionaires and 
nobles had their summer villas, thousands of Petrograd workers 
were taking their vacations. 

Reed went on to Moscow, where the public gardens blazed 
with flowers. The Kremlin walls had been repaired, and Mos- 
cow University, allowed to grow shabby since 1912, was being 
painted white. The theatres were open and crowded, and Reed 
heard Chaliapin in Faust. While he was in jail the civil war had 
begun again, with Pilsudsky and the Poles attacking in the 
Ukraine, and Wrangel and the last of the White Guard moving 
north from the Crimea; but the Red Army was winning vic- 
tories on both fronts, and every one was optimistic. 

Reed was not well. His arms and legs were swollen; his body 
was covered with sores, the result of malnutrition; and his gums 
had been attacked by scurvy. While Emma Goldman helped to 



take care of him, they argued together about the dictatorship of 
the proletariat. He was distressed by his two failures to reach 
the United States, but delighted with the change that had taken 
place in Russia. To her bitter criticisms, he replied with a heated 
defense of Soviet policy. Her mind had been set, he told her, in 
old-fashioned anarchist molds, and she could not recognize the 
revolution when she saw it. 

In the warm summer days he quickly regained his good spirits, 
though he could not obliterate the effects of his imprisonment 
on his constitution. While he was convalescing, he wrote an 
article for the Liberator. “Just now it is a beautiful moment in 
Soviet Russia,” he began. “Clear sunny day follows clear sunny 
day.” After describing the atmosphere of Moscow and Petro- 
grad, the sense of well-being and the new spirit of hope, he 
wrote: “And the children! This is a country for children, pri- 
marily. In every city, in every village, the children have their 
own p'ublic dining-rooms, where the food is better, and there is 
more of it, than for the grown-ups. Only the Red Army is fed 
so well. The children pay nothing for their food; they are 
clothed free of charge by the cities; for them are the schools, the 
children’s colonies— land-owners’ mansions scattered over the 
face of Russia; for them are the theatres and concerts— the im- 
mense, gorgeous state theatres crowded with children from or- 
chestra to gallery. In their honor Tsarskoe Syelo— the Tsar’s 
Village, the village of palaces— has been rechristened Dietskoe 
Syelo, the Children’s Village; a hundred thousand of them spend 
the summer there, in relays. The streets are full of happy chil- 

He did not want to give a false impression: “This does not 
mean that all is well with Soviet Russia, that the people do not 
hunger, that there is not misery and disease and desperate, end- 
less struggle. The winter was horrible beyond imagination. No 
one will ever know what Russia went through.” And he went 
on to describe that winter, telling what he had seen in Moscow 
and Petrograd, on the Lettish front, in Serpukov. After telling 
about the Red Army and the labor armies, he was going on to 
describe his trip to the Volga, but he did not have time, and he 
sent the article as it was, unfinished. 


Once he had recuperated, there was little time for writing, 
for he was needed to aid in preparations for the second congress 
of the Communist International. There were innumerable meet- 
ings to draw up plans, draft proposals, prepare appeals and proc- 
lamations, and Reed, as a member of the executive committee, 
was present at most of them. By the first of July delegates had 
begun to arrive. From all over the world they came, most of 
them traveling illegally, hiding on ships, passing through enemy 
lines at night, suffering frightful hardships. Some delegates never 
reached Russia, arrested or, one or two of them, killed. One 
American member of the I.W.W. crossed the Pacific and walked 
five hundred miles through the deserts and mountains of Man- 
churia to attend the congress. 

Reed, taking a room in the hotel that was reserved for dele- 
gates and guests, began to make the acquaintance of his com- 
rades. Learning that there was an American anarchist in a nearby 
room, he rapped on the door and walked in, calling, “Good 
morning, neighbor.” The American, Owen W. Penney, looked 
up, and the first thing he noticed was the eyes, sparkling, smil- 
ing, sympathetic. It did not take Reed long to learn Peimey’s 
story. Bom in the Middle West, the son of a miner, Penney had 
been in Europe all through the war, and had taken part in work- 
ing-class struggles in half a dozen countries. Though an anar- 
chist, he wanted to see what was happening in Russia, and he 
smuggled himself across the boundary from Germany. 

Reed and Penney were friends by the time they went down 
together to breakfast, and Reed immediately began to point out 
the errors in anarcho-syndicalism, which he usually called 
absurdo-stupidism. Through Penney he met Paul Freeman, an 
Australian syndicalist, and the three of them spent hours to- 
gether. In April Lenin had written “Left-Wing” Communism: 
an Infantile Disorder for the guidance of the congress. There 
was no English version in print, but Reed secured a translation 
in manuscript, going over it, sentence by sentence, with Free- 
man and Penney. The former was a Communist by the begin- 
ning of the congress and the latter by its close. 

While he prepared for the congress, Reed was sending word 
to Louise Bryant by whatever means offered themselves. On the 


sixteenth of June he sent her one hundred dollars and gave her 
minute instructions for the trip to Russia. On the twenty-third 
he repeated his instructions, adding, “We shall not be separated 
another winter. It is beautiful here now, and everything is going 
well. Great events are to be expected. I can say no more now, 
except that I love you.” And on the twenty-ninth another cou- 
rier carried assurances that plans for her voyage and her entrance 
into Russia were practically completed. 

On July 1 9, the congress opened in Petrograd with an address 
by Zinoviev, paying tribute to the martyrs of the revolution and 
describing the difference between the Second and Third Inter- 
nationals. After his speech had been translated into German, 
French, and Itahan, the presidium was elected. Kalinin greeted 
the congress in the name of the Russian workers and peasants, 
and Lenin, after a long ovation, spoke on imperialism, the situa- 
tion of the world revolutionary movement, and the aims of the 

The mood of the congress was optimistic. The Red Army 
was driving back Pilsudsky’s forces, and the Red Fleet was in 
the Caspian Sea. The Italian SociaHsts, the members of the Ger- 
man Independent Social Democratic Party, many French Social- 
ists, and even members of the British Independent Labor Party 
favored affiliation with the Third International. The very com- 
position of the congress gave hope. “It was remarkable,” Reed 
wrote, “for the number of real proletarians, of actual workmen- 
fighters-strikers, barricade-defenders, and active leaders of the 
revolutionary nationalist movements in the backward and colo- 
nial countries. German Spartacists, Spanish syndicalists, Amer- 
ican I.W.W.’s, Hungarian Soviet and Red Army leaders, British 
shop stewards and representatives of Clyde workers’ committees, 
Dutch transport workers, Hindu, Korean, Chinese, and Persian 
insurrectionists, Irish Sinn Feiners and Communists, Argentin- 
ian dockers, Australian wobbhes. All these people were not clear 
on Communism; they had violently divergent ideas about the 
dictatorship of the proletariat, parliamentarism, the need for a 
political party; but they were welcomed as brothers in revolu- 
tion, as the best fighters of the working class, as comrades that 
were willing to die for the overthrow of capitalism.” 


On the first day of the congress there was a great demonstra- 
tion in Petrograd. “Tremendous masses,” Reed wrote, “flowed 
like a clashing sea through the broad streets, almost overwhelm- 
ing with their enthusiastic affection the delegates as they 
marched from the Tauride Palace to the Field of Martyrs of the 
Revolution. On the steps of the old stock exchange, which 
had become a club for sailors, five thousand actors presented a 
pageant of the revolution from the Paris Commune to the world- 
wide triumph of the proletariat. Reed, watching it with the most 
intense excitement felt that one of his greatest dreams had come 
true. Here was the revolutionary art for which he had longed, 
since the Paterson pageant, seven years before, had given him his 
first glimpse of the possibilities of mass dramatic expression. 
“Why not write an article about it?” asked Fraina, who was sit- 
ting beside him. “An article!” Reed answered. “Fd like to write 
a book!” He might have written a book, tracing the win ding 
road from Paterson to Petrograd, a book that would have 
summed up all that he felt about art and all that he felt about 
labor. It was all there, in the pageant before him, miraculously 
unified and terribly alive. 

When the congress, after the preliminary session, moved to 
Moscow, crowds at every station greeted the special trains that 
carried the delegates. In Moscow itself three hundred thousand 
people— soldiers, workers, children, athletes-marched in honor 
of the congress. There was a great banquet at which Chaliapin 
sang and other artists performed. Delegates were housed, fed, 
given free access to theatres, and everywhere greeted with re- 
spect and affection. Soviet Russia, tom though it was by civil 
war, gave its best to the soldiers of world revolution. 

When the congress reconvened in Moscow, on July 23, Reed, 
as soon as the order of business had been announced, rose and, 
in the name of twenty-nine comrades, proposed the placing of 
the question of the trade unions nearer the head of the list. “ This 
is a serious problem,” he said. “We must thoroughly disciKs the 
trade umon question and have time to consider everything re- 
lated thereto,” He also moved that, at least for the duration of 
discussion on this topic, English be made one of the official lan- 
guages of the congress. Both motions were defeated. 


While Zinoviev opened the discussion of the role of the Com- 
munist Party in the revolution, Reed looked about the great 
Andreyev Throne Room of the Imperial Palace in the Kre mlin 
It was an extraordinary gathering, and one that he was proud to 
belong to. He was enough of a poet to appreciate the color and 
romance and to feel the drama in the lives of these oppressed, 
police-hunted men and women who dared to plan the winning 
of a world. But it did not seem strange to him that he was here, 
for he had come by a path that, viewed in retrospect, seemed 
perfectly straight, and he felt himself at one with these workers 
of the nations. 

The next day the composition of the various commissions was 
announced. There were to be five, and both the Communist 
Party and the Communist Labor Party were represented on 
each. Reed was appointed to both the commission on national 
minorities and the colonial question and the commission on trade 
union activities. Zinoviev served on the former, and Lenin, Kam- 
enev, and Radek on the latter. During the next few days Reed 
was occupied with these two commissions, speaking frequently 
in their meetings. 

On the twenty-sixth the congress as a whole took up the ques- 
tion of nationahst and colonial revolutionary movements. Reed, 
arriving late from the trade union commission, sent a note to 
Lenin, asking if he was to speak. Lenin rephed, “Absolutely.” 
From carefully prepared notes, he described the situation of the 
Negro in the United States, speaking of discrimination in every 
aspect of life. “As an oppressed and downtrodden people,” he 
said, “the Negro offers to us a twofold opportunity: first, a 
strong race and social movement; second, a strong proletarian, 
labor movement. ... In both the northern and southern parts of 
the country the one aim must be to unite the Negro and the 
white laborer in common labor unions; this is the best and the 
quickest way to destroy race prejudice and develop class solidar- 

Soon every one at the congress knew John Reed as he walked, 
coatless and tieless and usually smiling, to his seat in the Krem- 
lin. Many noticed and admired his broad shoulders, but some 
could see that his flesh was flabby and that he was not well. Al- 



though he spent as much time as he could in the sun, his face 
remained sallow, and there were new lines on his forehead and 
near the corners of his mouth. The forehead, underneath his dis- 
orderly hair, seemed broader now that his face had lost its good- 
natured pudginess. His mouth, when he was not grinning, was 
ordinarily rather gentle, but it could take a hard, straight line 
that his Greenwich Village friends would not have recognized. 
The eyes, though the touch of green in their brown was as con- 
fusing as ever, and though the light was as sharp and the eager- 
ness as unmistakable, were startled and a little hurt. 

He did not look healthy, and yet he was indefatigable. After 
spending all day at the congress, he was ready to devote half the 
night to talk. And the next morning he would be making vocif- 
erous speeches at the meeting of the commission on the trade 
union question. This question he wanted to discuss day and 
night, in the congress and out. 

He became the spokesman in the commission for those who 
opposed the policy of working within the existing unions. The 
form of the unions in America and England, he argued, was 
such that they could not be used for revolutionary purposes 
even if the Communists did capture all the offices. He admitted 
that it was foolish to leave the unions so long as the masses were 
in them, but Communists should try, not to capture but to smash 
them, so that industrial unions could be built in their place. 
Europeans, who were familiar with a different kind of labor or- 
ganization, failed, he insisted, to understand that in England and 
America unions were highly developed and developed in such 
a way as to restrain their members from revolutionary activity. 

The theses prepared by the commission on the trade union 
question came to a vote on August 4, and there were very sharp 
and fundamental differences of opinion expressed by the dele- 
gates. Radek eloquently defended the resolutions of the ma- 
jority, which the C.P. supported. Reed as eloquently attacked 
them. He contended that Communists could no more use the re- 
actionary trade tinions than they could the bourgeois state. The 
revolutionary crisis was advancing so swiftly that militant 
workers in the A.F. of L. were already looking for more effec- 
tive organizations, and the masses of unorganized workers could 


not be brought into the reactionary unions. By entering the A.F. 
of L., Communists, instead of building their strength among the 
masses, would be isolatmg themselves. After Zinoviev had sug- 
gested that Reed was too optimistic, the theses proposed by 
Radek were adopted. 

At the last business session, on August 6, Zinoviev announced 
the new executive committee, of which Reed was a member. 
The final meeting of the congress was held in the Moscow Opera 
House the next day. The delegates, members of the All-Russia 
Soviet Executive Committee, and leaders of the Moscow Soviet 
sat on the platform, and the great hall was fiUed with workers. 
After representatives of several countries had spoken, Zinoviev 
made the final speech, and Kalinin put the motion for adjourn- 
ment. When the thousands of men and women had sung “The 
Internationale,” and the applause was ceasing, the Italian dele- 
gates burst into one of their own revolutionary songs, and soon 
the entire throng was once more singing and shouting. 

John Reed, as excited as he had ever been when he danced 
before the cheering section at a Harvard-Yale game, saw the 
chance, in these moments of wild enthusiasm, to carry out a 
cherished plan. Signaling to Paul Freeman, who was as tall as he, 
and to Owen Penney, he marched towards the smiling Lenin. 
Freeman grasped one leg and Reed the other, and Penney 
boosted. Before he knew what was happening, Lenin found him- 
self high on Reed’s and Freeman’s shoulders, gazing down on a 
bewildered crowd. Ignorant of American customs, or perhaps 
disapproving, he protested, and, when protests did no good, 
kicked. They let him down, Reed, unabashed, joking at the 
bump on Peimey’s forehead. 

For three weeks after the end of the congress Reed was occu- 
pied with meetings of the executive committee. The various ap- 
plications for affiliation were carefully scrutinized, and the sit- 
uation of the revolutionary forces in each country examined. 
The United Communist Party and the Communist Party were 
instructed to unite within the next two months— though actually 
it was almost a year before unification was achieved. 

In the sessions of the E.C.C.I. Reed had an opportunity once 



more to debate the theses on trade unionism. “After a long and 
bitter fight,” he reported to his comrades at home, “the execu- 
tive committee made several amendments to their theses, which, 
although far from satisfactory to the objecting delegates, still 
made it possible for Communists in America to work for revolu- 
tionary industrial unionism and for the destruction of the reac- 
tionary American Federation of Labor.” The revised theses did 
recognize that dual unionism might in some circumstances be 
necessary, and they recommended the supporting of such revo- 
lutionary unions as already existed, but they required Commu- 
nists to join the regular trade unions and not to leave them unless 
they were forced to do so. Reed predicted that the next congress 
would adopt a different policy. 

The whole concept of revolutionary industrial unionism had, 
of course, been implanted in Reed’s mind at the time of his 
introduction to the class struggle in Paterson, and his observa- 
tions of the A.F. of L. had convinced him that the I.W.W. was 
right. And now he was so deeply immersed in the struggle, so 
thoroughly pre-occupied with revolutionary tactics, that it 
seemed to him of supreme importance that the right approach to 
the trade unions should be adopted. So intense was his feeling 
that he was constantly involved, in the commission, in the con- 
gress, and in the meetings of the executive committee, in passion- 
ate debate. Zinoviev and Radek were the leaders of the other 
camp, and against Zinoviev in particular Reed developed some 
animosity. During one of the sessions of the executive commit- 
tee, Reed peremptorily offered his resignation from the E.C.C.I. 
in protest against Zinoviev’s decision on an organizational ques- 
tion. It was not, of course, a thing that a disciplined revolu- 
tionaiy would have done, and Reed was persuaded by his 
fellow-delegates to withdraw his resignation and offer his 
apologies to the committee. 

At the end of August, a call came for members of the execu- 
tive committee to go to the Congress of Oriental Nations at 
Baku. “An Appeal to the Enslaved Masses in Persia, Armenia, 
and Turkey” had been issued by the executive committee of the 
International in July. Describing the exploitation of the peasants 
and workmen of Persia, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Armenia, Syria, 


and Arabia, the appeal challenged them to tlirow olf the im- 
perialist yoke. “Do not spare any effort,” it concluded, “and let 
as many of you as possible come to Baku on September i. For- 
merly you used to make pilgrimages across the desert to the Holy 
City; now cross mountains, rivers, and deserts to meet one an- 
other. . . . Let the congress show your foes in Europe, America, 
and in your own country that the time for slavery is over, that 
you have risen, and that you wiU conquer.” 

Reed was one of those assigned to go. On the twenty-sixth, 
just as he was making ready to leave, word came that Louise 
Bryant had reached Stockholm some time before and was on 
her way into Russia. He tried to make some arrangement for her 
to be sent after him to Baku, but the authorities refused to let a 
woman go through the zone of civil war. He left a note for her, 
explaining his absence, and naming persons in Petrograd and 
Moscow for her to see. “I am longing to see you,” he wrote, 
“more than I can tell. It seems years. I am worrying about only 
one thing. I must soon go home, and it is awfully difficult to get 
out of here, especially for a woman. That is why I tried to get 
word to you to wait for me outside. But as soon as I found out 
that you were coming, I was glad that I was to see my honey 

Baku, which the Soviets had lost in 1918, had been recaptured 
in the spring of 1920. On the Caspian Sea, across the Caucasus 
Mountains, it represented the farthest thrust of Soviet power 
into the Near East, the scene of the bitterest imperial struggle. 
To reach it, the delegates had to pass through the southern 
Ukraine, where the Red Army was battling with Wrangel’s 
troops. They rode in an armored train, through the fertile Volga 
plains that Reed had seen deep with snow a few months before. 
From the window he could watch the peasants at their work, 
and then, as they came near the Caspian, there were glimpses of 
troops, and one or two guerrilla bands made futile raids against 
the train. And at last there was Baku, center of the richest oil 
deposits in the world, coveted by every power in Europe, an 
oriental city, an old Tartar city, being transformed by the 
world’s newest great industry. 

Two thousand men of the East, Turks, Persians, Armenians, 



representatives of the Asiatic nationalities of Soviet Russia, even 
a few Hindus and Chinese, came to the congress, wearing their 
strange and colorful costumes. It was a dramatic, romantic scene, 
the kind of scene that John Reed loved. He was a member of 
the presidium and a speaker. Boyish in his open-necked white 
shirt, he stood before these bright-robed Orientals to tell them 
about American imperiahsm. 

“I represent,” he began, “the revolutionary workers of one of 
the greatest imperialist powers— the United States of America. 
You have not yet tasted American domination. You know and 
hate English, French, and Italian imperialists, but you probably 
think that 'free America’ will rule better, will liberate the co- 
lonial peoples, will feed and protect them. But the workers and 
peasants of the Phihppines, the peoples of Central America and 
of the islands in the Caribbean Sea— they know the meaning of 
the domination of ‘free America.’ ” 

After describing the conquest of the Philippines and explain- 
ing that formal emancipation would stiU leave American capital- 
ists in control, after showing what had happened in Cuba, Haiti, 
and Santo Domingo, after telling what he had himself seen in 
Mexico, after depicting the sufferings of ten million Negroes, he 
asked the people of the Near East why they should expect better 
treatment from the United States. To the Armenians he pointed 
out that Cleveland Dodge, who administered Armenian relief, 
exploited the workers in his copper mines and, when they went 
on strike, drove them into the desert as ruthlessly as any Turk 
could have done. He spoke of the way relief had been used in 
Hungary to destroy the Soviets, and charged that American aid 
to the sufferers of the Near East would also be given only for 
the sake of advancing American interests. 

“No, comrades,” he said, “Uncle Sam never gives anything 
free of charge. He comes with a sack of hay in one hand and a 
whip in the other, and whoever believes his promises will pay in 
blood. . . . Don’t trust American capitalists. There is but one 
road to freedom. Unite with the Russian workers and peasants, 
who overthrew their capitalists and whose Red Army conquers 
the troops of the foreign imperialists. Follow the red star of the 
Comm uni st International!” 


Radek, Zinoviev, and Bela Kun were the principal speakers. 
“The real revolution,” Zinoviev said, “will blaze up only when 
the eight hundred million people in Asia unite with us, when the 
African continent unites, when we see that hundreds of millions 
of people are in the movement. We must kindle a holy war 
against the British and French capitalists. We must create a Red 
Army in the East, to organize uprisings in the rear of the British, 
to destroy every impudent British officer who lords it over Tur- 
key, Persia, India, China.” As the men of the East sprang to their 
feet, flourishing swords, spears, and revolvers, Reed, sitting at 
the front with the others of the presidium, could scarcely believe 
that this was not one of the dreams of oriental glamor with 
which The Arabian Nights had filled his boyhood. 

With his gift for making himself understood by men whose 
language he did not know, Reed moved among the delegates and 
pieced together their romantic stories. He saw, of course, the 
practical difiSculties of linking nationalist struggles with the pro- 
letarian revolution, but he knew that many of these two thou- 
sand delegates would go home to work patiently and heroically 
for the emancipation of the working class. He wished he could 
follow them, into the Orient that all his life he had wanted to 

The congress ended, and the representatives of the Interna- 
tional started back in their armored car to Moscow. As the train 
passed through the territory in which the fight against Wrangel 
was going on, it was attacked by bandits. The Red Army squad 
on the train repulsed the guerrillas and started in pursuit. Reed, 
begging for permission to go with them, was allowed to ride on 
the peasant wagon on which they mounted their machine guns. 
Up into the lulls they went, laughing, good-natured boys like 
those in La Tropa. They were loath to return to the waiting 
train, and so was he. 

He found Louise Bryant in Moscow. She had had to make the 
last stage of her trip disguised as a sailor, but she had come. To 
her he seemed older and sadder and strangely intense. She felt 
that he was tired and ill. But he was eager for her to see the new 
Russia, and they visited Lenin, Trotsky, Kamenev, Enver Pasha, 
and Bela Kun, saw the ballet and Frince Igor, went to the art 



galleries. There was still much for him to do, of course, meetings 
of the executive committee, special conferences, a report of the 
congress of the Comintern to write for the United Communist 
Party. At one time he dropped in at the Department of Foreign 
Affairs, where Nuorteva and Wilfred Humphries were working 
in the Anglo-American office. They asked him about Baku, and 
for two hours he talked to them, telling, with enthusiasm and 
drama, the story of the congress. “You should have seen the 
swords flash!” he said. 

With Louise he talked about America, about the novel and the 
poetry he intended to write. He hoped that the active tasks of 
revolution could be left in other hands, that he might write, of 
and for the revolution of course, but write. But first there would 
be the final unification of the Communists to accomplish, and 
there was his indictment in Chicago. This he was determined to 
face, though Louise insisted that conviction was certain. When 
she urged him to stay in Russia and rest, he told her that that 
would be cowardly. 

There was a touchmg letter from his mother that Louise had 
brought. He had written her from the Abo jail, the first letter 
he had been able to send to her in many months. “What you say 
about feeling selfish,” she had replied, “makes me feel badly, 
dear. Don’t ever feel like that. You are doing what you think is 
right— that is all any of us can do in this world— and if we don’t 
do it, we’re all wrong. Except for fear for your personal safety, 
the rest is all right in my eyes if you feel that it is.” 

It was a happy fortnight, despite Louise’s alarm over Reed’s 
health and her fear of the consequences if he returned to the 
United States. He was perfectly confident, very eager, very 
busy. On the morning of September 22, he went to Kamenev’s 
office to see him, and found Clare Sheridan there, preparing to 
make a bust of the revolutionist. They spoke together briefly, 
and that night she wrote in her diary: “We were delayed in 
starting by John Reed, the American Communist, who came to 
see him on some business; a well-built, good-looking young rngn, 
who has given up everything at home to throw hi heart and 
life into the work here. I understand the Russian spirit, but what 
strange force impels an apparently normal young man from the 



United States? I am told by the Russians that his book, T en Days 
That Shook the World, is the best book on the revolution, and 
that it has become a national classic and is taught in the schools.” 

Three or four days later, Reed felt ill. He had always scorned 
to take any precautions against disease, laughing at Americans 
with their bug-powder and their fetish of sterilization. After all, 
he had been exposed to typhus in Serbian hospitals, on Russian 
trains, in barracks and in jails. Even now his illness, which the 
doctor diagnosed as influenza, did not seem serious. For a week 
Louise Bryant cared for him, and then, as he seemed to grow 
worse, asked for a consultation. The doctors, deciding that he 
had typhus, ordered his removal to the Marinsky Hospital. 

Although he was in pain, his interest in the movement was 
undiminished. Louis Fraina brought him the stenographic record 
of his speeches in the congress. Having been translated from 
English into German and then from German into Russian, and 
finally translated back again into English, the speeches were fan- 
tastically garbled. Reed was distressed at the distortion of his 
ideas, and, unable to make the revisions himself, asked Fraina to 
put the text in shape. Until he acmally lost consciousness, he was 
clear-headed, interested in what was going on, brave. 

As it became apparent that his condition was serious, all the 
resources of the hospital were concentrated on the attempt to 
save his life: fotir doctors, two consulting physicians, an assistant 
surgeon, and an English-speaking nurse were in attendance. San- 
teri Nuorteva ransacked the city for the proper medicines, but 
they were hard to get. Indeed, as Robert HalloweU was to write, 
“His end might have been different if our State Department had 
not refused to allow medical supplies to go to Russia.” 

Into the great city, so busy with the tasks of revolution, too 
busy to think much of one more case of typhus, word went 
forth on the seventeenth of October that John Reed was dying. 
Wilfred Humphries and Santeri Nuorteva, hearing the report, 
hurried to the hospital. They came into the little room, and the 
doctor turned to them, saying that he was dead. 

The body was taken to the Labor Temple, where for seven 
days it lay in state, guarded by soldiers of the Red Army. Louise 



Bryant wrote to Mrs. Reed, telling of the illness and death. “He 
died on Sunday,” she wrote, “but will not be buried until next 
Sunday, the twenty-fourth. He will be buried in the most hon- 
ored spot in Russia, beside all the great heroes in the Kjremlin. 
You know how honored he is here. ... I feel very far away, 
but the Russians have been very kind to me. They have spared 
no effort to make things easier for me. And they loved Jack 
greatly, and they gave him every honor in their power. ... We 
spoke often of home and of you and we thought how we could 
see you when we came back. We talked of long vacations when 
Jack could finish his history. He had a novel all planned out and 
many short stories . . .” 

In America the revolutionary movement prepared its tributes. 
Even the kept press that he hated praised John Reed now that he 
was dead. Friends stopped each other on the street and talked 
about him. To the students of English 12, Copey, cursing the 
Bolsheviki, praised the courage and loyalty of his Jack Reed. 
There were many who talked about wasted talent, and some 
whose pat phrases concealed relief. But in Atlanta and Leaven- 
worth, in Sing Sing and Cook County Jail, in hundreds of pris- 
ons, and in the hiding-places of an outlawed Communist move- 
ment, men shut their jaws tight. 

During the week news came that Wrangel was retreating: the 
civil war was nearly over. The twenty-fourth was a gray day, 
with rain that was sometimes sleet and sometimes snow. The 
leaders of the Communist International and the Moscow Soviet 
and the handful of Americans in the city gathered in the Labor 
Temple. On the walls were flaming cartoons of the revolution. 
The coffin was covered with wreaths of artificial flowers— the 
tin wreaths Reed had found so hideous when he had watched, 
almost three years before, the burial of the revolutionary mar- 
tyrs of Moscow. It was the best the struggling proletariat could 

Through the streets of Moscow the procession moved to the 
Red Square, as Reed had marched to the funeral of the heroic 
workers and soldiers. Thousands of workers walked behind the 
coffin, and a band played, over and over, the funeral march of 
the revolution. At the grave by the wall of the Kremlin the great 


throng stood in the rain and sleet, while Bukharin, Kollontai, 
Radek, Reinstein, Murphy, and Rosmer spoke. To the Americans 
the speeches seemed hard and impersonal— except for the warmth 
of Alexandra Kollontai’s tribute. For Bukharin and Radek and 
the others the death of John Reed was only an incident in the 
struggle for world revolution. He would have approved. 


Without the assistance of Louise Bryant, who placed at my dis- 
posal not only all of John Reed’s papers but also her own notes 
regarding his life, this biography wo^d have been almost impos- 
sible. The number of references to the Louise Bryant Collection in 
Appendix A is some measure of my indebtedness to her. 

I am scarcely less indebted to John Stuart, who abandoned his 
own plan to write a biography of Reed, turned over to me all the 
material he had gathered, and for nearly a year devoted himself to 
research for this book. The book owes more than I can say to his 
faithful examination of newspaper and magazine files and to his 
resourceful investigation of all sorts of clues. It owes much, too, to 
his suggestions for the treatment of the material, and, though I have 
done the actual writing of the book, so that he is not to be held 
responsible for its faults, I am conscious of the extent to which his 
judgments have influenced and enriched the presentation. 

To the individual members of the Harvard Alumni John Reed 
Committee and to the committee as a whole I am grateful for many 
kinds of assistance. It was this committee that made it possible for 
John Stuart to go to Paris, organize the material that Louise Bryant 
had so kindly offered to put at my disposal, and bring it back to 
this country. Its secretary-treasurer, Corliss Lamont, originally sug- 
gested my writing the book, and he has repeatedly helped and 
encouraged me, 

A biography such as this, even though one individual retains 
responsibility, becomes a collective effort. Despite the considerable 
amount of documentary material available, the book would have 
been a bare outline if persons who knew John Reed had not come 
to my aid. More than one hundred and fifty of them did help me, 
and I gratefully list their names: 

Jane Addams, G. W. H. Allen, Sherwood Anderson, William F. 
Avery, Roger Baldwin, George Gordon Battle, Bessie Beatty, 
Maurice Becker, George Biddle, Carl Binger, Frank Bohn, F. S. 
Boyd, Heywood Broun, Roger Burlingame, John G. Burr, Arthur 
P. Butler, David Carb, Kate Carew, Stuart Chase, Maximilian Cohen, 
Saxe Commins, Charles Townsend Copeland, William H. Daly, 



Frank Damrosch, H. W. L. Dana, Francis W. Davis, Floyd Dell, 
Robert Dunn, T. S. Eliot, Joseph Ellner, Charles W. Ervin, Joseph 
Ettor, John Evans, F. D. Everett, George Falconer, Alice Withrow 
'Field, Sara Bard Field, M. Eleanor Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Gurley 
Flynn, Martha Foley, Louis C. Fraina, Waldo Frank, Lewis Gannett, 
Arturo Giovannitti, H. J. Glintenkamp, Alan Gregg, Thomas N. 
Gregory, Alex Gumberg. 

Robert Hallowell, Harry Hansen, Hutchins Hapgood, William 
Hard, Arthur Garfield Hays, Hugh H. Herdman, Paula HoUaday, 
Frank M. Houck, R. S. Howard, Wilfred Humphries, Edward E. 
Hunt, Gustave A. Hunziker, Fannie Hurst, Agnes Inglis, Will 
Irwin, Ellis O. Jones, H. V. Kaltenborn, Francis F. Kane, John 
Kelley, Nicholas Kelley, John Kennard, Edna Kenton, Charles 
Kuntz, Alfred B. Kuttner, William S. Ladd, Sinclair Lewis, Sally 
Lewis, Paul Lieder, Edward Lindgren, Walter Lippmann, William 
Bross Lloyd, Herman Lorber. 

Eadmonn MacAlpine, Percy MacKaye, Don Marquis, George H. 
Marsh, Edward S. Martin, George W. Martin, Lewis A. McArthur, 
Isaac McBride, Samuel Duff McCoy, Spencer Miller, Robert Minor, 
Richard Montgomery, Edward J. Morgan, Benjamin W. Morris, 
Charlotte Morton, Robert A. Morton, Scott Nearing, William Allan 
Neilson, Walter M. Nelson, Albert Jay Nock, Charles D. Osborne, 
Eric Parson, Jeannette D. Pearl, Waldo Peirce, Owen W. P^nnejy, 
Marlen E. Pew, J. S. Phillips, W. T. Pickering, Anios Pinchot, 
Ernest Poole, Grace Potter, Lucien Price, Patrick Quinlan, Charles 
Recht, Boardman Robinson, Robert E. Rogers, Mrs. C. O. Rose. 

Wheeler Sammons, Isidor Schneider, Howard Scott, Frank Shay, 
Lee Simonson, Herman Simpson, Harrison Smith, MacCormac 
Snow, Sigmund Spaeth, Louis Stark, Thomas Steep, Lincoln Stef- 
fens, George Stephenson, Alice Strong, Genevieve Taggard, Ida 
Tarbell, Graham Taylor, G. H. Tilghman, Berkeley G. Toby, 
Marie Tomsett, Carlo Tresca, John Kenneth Turner, Louis Unter- 
meyer, Richard Van Buskirk, Mary Heaton Vorse, Mrs. David 
Wallerstein, Carl Walters, Helen Walters, Hathaway Watson, John 
Hall Wheelock, Albert Rhys Williams, Gluyas Williams, Bertram 
Wolfe, Berwick B. Wood, Charles Erskine Scott Wood, Francis C. 
Woodman, Hella Wuolojoki, Philip Wyman, Art Young, H. A. 
Osgood, Ruth Osgood. 

Some of these persons gave more information than others, but all 
of them gave generously, and I thank them all. The reader may 
observe the absence from the list of certain names that appear fre- 
quently in the text. There were a few men and women who, though 
they were closely associated with Reed, refused, for reasons that 
seemed adequate to them, to help me. I mention the fact merely 



because it should be made clear that I did not intentionalljr neglect 
any possible source of information. 

To some of the men and women I have listed I have a double 
debt, for they read portions of the manuscript: Frank Damrosch, 
Robert Dunn, Louis C. Fraina, Robert Hallowell, Edward E. Hunt, 
Samuel Duff McCoy, Boardman Robinson, Lincoln Steffens, Alice 
Strong, and Albert Rhys Williams. 

My obligations to Robert Hallowell extend still further, for he 
gave me permission to reproduce his portrait of John Reed, painted 
for the Harvard Alumni John Reed Committee and now hung in 
Adams House at Harvard. His friendship, moreover, has been not 
only a personal satisfaction but an influence upon the book. 

Special gratitude is also due Harrison Smith, who, in spite of his 
interest in another project for a biography of Reed, contributed 
his personal recollections and helped me to secure material that I 

I wish to thank Samuel Charniak, H. W. L. Dana, and Sergei 
Dinamov for gathering material in the Soviet Union, Lee Levenson 
for her faithful work in copying and recopying the manuscript, 
Nelson and Tillie Frank for scrutinizing the manuscript for errors 
of fact, and Robert G. Davis for his critical reading of the text. 

If I have accidentally omitted any one from this list whose name 
belongs upon it, I offer apologies as well as thanks. There are those, 
very close to me, whose names I have consciously omitted, as they 
preferred; they know the magnitude of my debt and the warmth of 
my appreciation. 

G. H. 

Grafton, New York 
January i, 1936 



Since it has seemed unwise to interrupt the pages of this biography 
with footnotes, I have listed below the principal sources for each 
chapter, and the careful reader will, I think, have little difficulty in 
discovering the authority for each statement. The sources are prin- 
cipally of three kinds: Reed’s articles, published and unpublished; 
letters to and from him; and information given me in letters or inter- 
views by persons who knew him. 

The largest volume of material at my disposal was the collection 
preserved by John Reed’s widow, Louise Bryant, which includes 
scores of manuscripts, more than a thousand letters to John Reed 
and more than a hundred from him, the notebooks that he kept in 
Mexico and Russia and many miscellaneous notes, pamphlets and 
newspapers that he had collected, scores of clippings related to him, 
and a variety of personal possessions. It was placed at my disposal 
through the generosity of Louise Bryant and with the cooperation 
of the Harvard Alumni John Reed Committee, which is its cus- 
todian. In these notes it is referred to as the L.B.C. All published 
works by John Reed mentioned in the text are listed in the bibliog- 
raphy (Appendix B). 

Chapter I 

For much of the information in this chapter I am indebted to H. 
H. Herdman, R. S. Howard, Dr. William S. Ladd, Miss Sally Lewis, 
Edward S. Martin, Lewis A. McArthur, Mrs. C. O. Rose, MacCor- 
mac Snow, Berwick B. Wood, Colonel Charles Erskine Scott Wood 
and especially Miss Alice Strong. Miss Strong, Mr. McArthur, and 
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn have helped me with copies of articles in 
Portland newspapers, and Richard G. Montgomery, in addition to 
giving me what information he could, appealed to others on my 

Reed’s description of Lee Sing’s celebration of his birth is in an 



unpublished manuscript in the L.B.C. Mrs. Alice Withrow Field se- 
cured for me information regarding Mrs. Green’s ancestry. Obitu- 
aries of Mr. Green appeared in the Portland Oregonian for Apr. 7 
and Apr. 12, 1885. is from that of the later date, written by T. B. 
Merry, that I have quoted. There is also an account of Mr. Green’s 
life in H. W. Scott’s History of Portland (Syracuse, N. Y., 1890). 
Some of the information regarding C. J. Reed is taken from his obitu- 
ary in the Portland Oregonian for July 3, 1912. 

The second section of the chapter is based largely on Reed’s auto- 
biographical essay, “Almost Thirty,” in the L.B.C. For comment on 
the writing of this essay see Chapter XIII. 

The essay, “The Best Camping Experience,” is in the L.B.C. 

Chapter II 

A. P. Butler and F. C. Woodman, formerly masters of the Morris- 
town School, and G. H. Tilghman, the present headmaster, have 
given information on Reed’s school activities. The Rev. Frank Dam- 
rosch, Jr. drew generously on his memories and lent a file of the 
Morristonian. G. W. H. AJlen lent his file of the Rooster. Letters 
with useful information were received from Major John Kennard, 
Roger Burlingame, and George Stephenson. 

Much information has been derived from the Morristonian, and 
all verse is quoted therefrom. The sentences by Reed are quoted 
from “Almost Thirty.” The story of the southern boy who influ- 
enced Reed was told me by Dr. Alan Gregg. G. H. Marsh gave me 
the facts concerning C. J. Reed’s appointment as United States 

Chapter III 

We have examined the files from 1906 to 1910 of the Harvard 
Crimson, the Harvard Monthly, the Harvard Advocate, the Lam-- 
poon, and the Harvard Illustrated Magazine. We have also consulted 
the university catalogs of the same period and the class albums. Some 
information has been drawn from subsequent reports of the class of 

This documentary material has been supplemented by letters from 
or interviews with William F. Avery, Stuart Chase, Charles Town- 
send Copeland, Francis W. Davis, Alan Gregg, Robert Hallowell, 
Edward E. Hunt, H. V. Kaltenbom, John Kelley, Nicholas Kelley, 
Paul Lieder, Walter Lippmann, Percy MacKaye, George W. Mar- 
tin, William Allan Neilson, Eric Parson, W. T. Pickering, Lucien 
Price, Robert Emmons Rogers, Wheeler Sammons, Lee Simonson, 



MacCormac Snow, Hathaway Watson, John Hall Wheelock, Gluyas 
Williams, and Philip Wyman. 

Most of the passages in which Reed comments on Harvard are 
taken from “Almost Thirty.” I have also drawn on another unpub- 
lished essay by him, “The Harvard Renaissance.” Three different 
versions of this essay are in the possession of Edward E. Hunt, who 
lent them to me. There is a copy of the longest version in the L.B.C. 
The essay is discussed in Chapter V. 

Robert Hallowell tells the story of Reed’s proposal to write a book 
about Harvard in his article in the Nev) Republic (Nov. 17, 1920). 
The account of the Monthly initiation is from Edward E. Hunt’s 
“Friendly Faces” in the Monthly for March, 1917. (Hallowell told 
me about the poem Hunt read.) The description of the club system 
is from “The Harvard Renaissance.” The bulletin from Concord is 
in the possession of Edward E. Hunt. Reed told the story of his 
meeting with William James in “A Reminiscence,” in the American 
Magazine (Nov., 1911). In the same issue, in the department called 
“Interesting People,” he has an article on Copeland. The words and 
music of Diana's Debut were published (Cambridge, 1910). The 
manuscripts of “Tit for Tat” and “The Last of the Pirates” and the 
letters from Steffens and Wood are in the L.B.C. The letters from 
which the adverse comments in the last paragraph are quoted were 
written in response to the Harvard Alumni John Reed Commit- 
tee’s appeal for funds. 

Chapter IV 

The story of Waldo Peirce’s dive has become a legend. The 
account I have given is based upon a journal Reed wrote on the 
cattleboat (in the L.B.C.). This substantiates Peirce’s own version of 
the adventure. Reed based a story on the incident, which he called 
“The Cattleboat Murder” (ms. in the L.B.C.). This was revised by 
Julian Street, and the revision, entitled “Overboard,” appeared in the 
Saturday Evening Post for Oct. 28, 1911, as the work of Reed and 
Street. It is, naturally, the farthest removed from the facts of the 
three versions, but it is closer to the truth than some of the stories 
that have been circulated. 

The account of the Spanish trip is derived from an unpublished 
article in the L.B.C., “A Dash Into Spain.” Otherwise the chapter is 
based almost entirely on Reed’s letters to his mother, father, and 
brother (in the L.B.C.) and to Alan Gregg (lent me by Dr. Gregg). 
This information has been supplemented by interviews with Waldo 
Peirce, Gluyas Williams, and H. W. L. Dana, and a letter from Kate 


Chapter V 

Steffens describes his relations with Reed in his Autobiography ^ 
especially pages 654-6. Reed pays tribute to Steffens in “Almost 

Reed’s letters to Peirce were lent me by the latter. Other letters 
quoted in this chapter are in the L.B.C. 

The description of Reed’s wanderings about New York is based on 
a passage in “Almost Thirty.” The list of plays is taken from a 
scrapbook in the L.B.C. 

“The Harvard Radicalettes” was lent me by Edward E. Hunt. 

The following persons gave, in interviews or letters, material used 
in this chapter: Robert Hallowell, Edward E. Hunt, Alfred Kuttner, 
Walter Lippmann, Percy MacKaye, Samuel Duff McCoy, H. A. 
Osgood, Ruth Osgood, Robert E. Rogers, Frank Shay, Lincoln 

The published poems, stories, and articles by Reed discussed in 
this chapter are listed in the bibliography. The unpublished ones are 
in the L.B.C. 

Chapter VI 

The story of the re-organization of the Masses is drawn from Art 
Young’s On My Way (1928). Reed’s draft of the statement of pur- 
pose is in the L.B.C. According to Max Eastman (“New Masses for 
Old,” Modern Monthly, June, 1934), he gave Reed’s statement the 
form in which it was published. Eastman speaks of Reed’s connec- 
tion with the magazine in a speech on John Reed reprinted in the 
Liberator for Dec., 1920. 

Mabel Dodge’s salon is described in Steffens’ Autobiography and, 
in a fictional form that constitutes no disguise, in Carl Van Vechten’s 
feter Whiffle (1922) and Max Eastman’s Venture (1927). Mabel 
Dodge Luhan’s Background (1933) and European Experiences 
(1935) take her story only as far as her return to the United States 
in 1912. 

Reed’s arrest in Paterson is described in the New York Times and 
other papers of April 29, 1913. Reed described his arrest and im- 
prisonment in “War in Paterson” {Masses, June, 1913) and condi- 
tions in the jail in “Sheriff Radcliff’s Hotel” {Metropolitan, Sept., 


The Paterson strike is described in Industrial Relations (64th Con- 
gress, ist Session, Senate Document 415, 1916) Vol. Ill, 2411-2634. 
Bill Haywood^s Book (1929) describes both the strike and the 
pageant, as does Mary Heaton Vorse’s A Footnote to Folly (1935). 
Carlo Tresca, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Mary Heaton Vorse, Fred- 



erick Sumner Boyd, Ernest Poole, and Grace Potter gave informa- 
tion in interviews and letters. Tresca permitted us to read his un- 
published autobiography. Susan Glaspell mentions the pageant in 
The Road to the Temple (1927). The printed program contains a 
synopsis of the pageant. John H. Steiger’s Memoirs of a Silk Striker 
(Paterson, 1914) discusses the strike and the pageant in terms of 
complete hostility to the I.W.W. 

There are brief references to John Reed’s European trip in The 
Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) and Muriel Draper’s 
Music at Midnight (1929). E. E. Hunt lent me a copy of a news- 
paper story about Reed’s speaking to the Italian Socialists. Otherwise 
the material in the chapter is based upon Reed’s letters to his mother 
and to Mr. Hunt. Mr. Hunt lent me the letters to him. Other letters 
quoted in this chapter are in the L.B.C. 

Chapter VII 

Floyd Dell’s Homecoming (1933) and Alfred Ehreymborg’s 
Troubadour (1925) describe Greenwich Village in 1913 and men- 
tion Reed. Some of the material in the first section and the opening 
paragraphs of the second section is based on information given by 
F. S. Boyd, Waldo Frank, H. J. Glintenkamp, Don Marquis, and 
Lee Simonson. The interpretation of Reed’s state of mind before 
going to Mexico owes much to “Almost Thirty.” 

The remainder of the chapter is entirely based on Reed’s writings, 
except for a little information about Reed in El Paso and the Torreon 
campaign given by Thomas Steep. Most, but not all, of the material 
is included in Insurgent Mexico. The book is not, however, arranged 
in chronological order. I am giving, therefore, a chronological chart, 
with dates when they can be determined, and with the sources of 
information about each episode. The notebook referred to is the one 
Reed kept in Mexico, which exists, unfortunately incomplete, in the 

Presidio and Insurgent Mexico^ “On the Border”; “Endym- 

ion” (Masses, Dec., 1916). 

Chihuahua (Dec. 25-Jan. i) Metropolitan, Feb., 1914, p. 72. Most 
of the material on Villa is in Insurgent Mexico, Part II; a little 
comes from Reed’s article in the World, Mar. i, 1914. Some of 
the impressions of Chihuahua and the entire account of the trip 
to the mines are found in the notebook. “Mac— American” 
(Masses, Apr., 1914) and the notebook describe New Year’s 

Jiminez (Jan. i) and Magistral— Mexico, Part II, and the 
notebook. Insurgent Mexico conceals what the notebook makes 
clear, that Reed made the trip with Mac. 


Santa Maria del Oro (Jan. 6 )’-lnsurgent Mexico^ Part VI, chapters 

Las Nieves (c. Jan. 9) and La Cadena— Mexico^ Part I, and 

Chihuahua (c. Feb. i) 

El Paso (Feb. 12 or earlier)— Dispatches to the Worlds Feb. 13-28; 
notebook; two unpublished mss. in L.B.C.— the account of the 
Hearst agent, called “In Short,” and an untitled description of 
the detectives in El Paso. Mr. Steep remembers the trip into the 

Chihuahua (c. Feb. World dispatches. 

Nogales (Mar. 2-4) .Insurgent Mexico^ Part V, and World dis- 
patches, Mar. 4, 

Chihuahua (c. Mar. 10) Insurgent Mexico, Part VI, chapter i. 
Campaign on Torreon (c. Mar. 17-28) Insurgent Mexico, Part IV, 
notebook, and World dispatches. 

El Paso (Mar. World dispatches. 

Throughout the chapter I have used many of Reed’s phrases with- 
out interrupting the text by quotation marks. Steffens’ views on 
Mexico are to be found in his Autobiography , Lippmann’s letter to 
Reed is in the L.B.C. The second quotation is from Lippmann’s 
article, “Legendary John Reed,” in the New Republic for Dec. 26, 

Chapter VIII 

Reed’s report of the Union Square meeting appeared in the New 
York World for Apr. 12, 1914. Pulitzer’s editorial was in the World 
for Apr. 29. 

Upton Sinclair describes the Denver newspaper story about Reed 
in The Brass Check (1920). Jane Addams and Harry Hansen gave 
information in letters about Reed’s visit to Hull House. 

The unpublished interview with Wilson is in the L.B.C., as are the 
letters from Wilson and Tumulty. The description of the meeting 
with Bryan is based on the opening paragraphs of Reed’s article, 
“Bryan on Tour.” (See Chapter XII.) These paragraphs were 
omitted from the printed article (Collie fs, May 20, 1916), but ap- 
pear in the version in the L.B.C. Congratulatory letters on the state- 
ment in the Times and the Ludlow article and the letters from 
Hovey and Steffens mentioned in the text are in the L.B.C. 

Some information comes from interviews with F. S. Boyd and 
Mary Heaton Vorse. 


Chapter IX 


The narrative in the first section follows Reed's Metropolitan 
articles: “The Englishman’’ (Oct., 1914); “The Approach to War” 
(Nov.); and part of “With the Allies” (Dec.). A note appended to 
“The Traders’ War” (Masses, Sept.) states: “This article is written 
by a well-known author and war correspondent who is compelled 
by arrangements with another publication to withhold his name.” 
Internal evidence indicates that it is Reed’s. 

The description of the attempt to reach the French front is based 
on an unpublished manuscript in the L.B.C., “Shot at Sunrise,” and 
on Robert Dunn’s Five Fronts (1915). Reed’s impressions of London 
are drawn from another unpublished manuscript in the L.B.C., 
“Rule, Britannia!” Some material in this section comes from “Notes 
on the War, by Our European Correspondent” (Masses, Nov.). A 
comparison of this article with “Rule, Britannia!” and “This Unpop- 
ular War” (Seven Arts, Aug., 1917) unquestionably establishes 
Reed’s authorship. 

The description of Reed’s visit to Germany follows his articles in 
the Metropolitan for March and April, 1915. The interview with 
Liebknecht is described in the Liberator, Mar., 1919, and the Revo-' 
lutionary Age, Feb. i, 1919. Dunn’s account of the visit to the Ger- 
man lines appears in Five Fronts. 

Some material in the chapter has been derived from interviews 
with F. S. Boyd, Robert Dunn, Alfred Kuttner, Ernest Poole, Lee 
Simonson, Robert Rogers, and Mr. and Mrs. Carl Walters. 

Chapter X 

The first number of the Neve Republic was dated Nov. 7, 1914. 
Lippmann’s article on Reed appeared in the issue of Dec. 26. 

A copy of Enter Dibble was lent me by Edward E. Hunt. 

There is a description of Roosevelt and Reed in Sonya Levien’s 
“Col. Roosevelt in Our Office,” Metropolitan Bulletin for May, 1916. 
This has been supplemented by information from Boardman RoW- 
son, William Hard, and Marie Tomsett. The quotations are from 
Roosevelt’s articles in the March and April (1915) Metropolitan. 

President Hibben’s letter of protest appeared in the Post for Mar. 
2, 1915. In the account of the incident in his book, Five Fronts, 
Dunn omitted all mention of Reed’s firing. Reed denied in his testi- 
mony at the Masses trial and in his testimony at the hearings of the 
Overman committee that he fired in the direction of the French 
lines. (See Chapters XVII and XVIII.) 

Material on Reed’s Boston lecture comes from Boston newspapers 
of March 4, 5, and 6, 1915, and from Dr. Alan Gregg. 



Chapter XI 

The chapter closely follows The War in Eastern Europe^ supple- 
mented by information from Boardman Robinson. A few details are 
taken from Reed’s article, “This Unpopular War.” 

The section on Russia follows a long letter which Reed wrote to 
Carl Hovey from Petrograd on July 14, 1915 (in the L.B.C.) and 
an unpublished article (also in the L.B.C.) called “No Americans 
Need Apply!” All conversations are taken from the latter, in the 
course of which Reed remarked that, though of course he did not 
have a stenographic record of what was said, he was willing to 
vouch for the essential accuracy of his report. 

The description of the Serbian Socialist is taken from “The World 
Well Lost” {Masses^ Feb., 1916), and the account of the Standard 
Oil employee in Bucharest comes from “The Rights of Small Na- 
tions” {Nenx) Republic, Nov. 27, 1915). A few details concerning the 
treatment of the Jews are taken from Reed’s article, “The Jew on 
the Eastern Front” in The Book of the Exile (1916). A few details 
of his visit to Constantinople are derived from an unpublished frag- 
ment in the L.B.C. 

Chapter XII 

The account of Reed’s lecture at the Harvard Club comes from 
Boardman Robinson, Robert Hallowell, and H. W. L. Dana; the 
account of the lecture at Sing Sing from Spencer Miller, Jr. Sally 
Lewis, Sara Bard Field, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Walters, and others gave 
information on Reed’s meeting with Louise Bryant. The Brooklyn 
Eagle for Feb, 18, 1916, reported the speech to the Intercollegiate 
Socialist Society; the New York Telegraph for Mar. 10, 1916, the 
speech to the Columbia Social Study Club; and the New York Call 
for Jan. 7, the speech to the Labor Forum. John Kenneth Turner 
repeated Reed’s comment on Villa in a letter. Alfred Kuttner re- 
ported Reed’s reaction to the Schmidt execution. The account of 
the Willard-Moran fight is contained in an unpublished manuscript 
in the L.B.C. The article on Bryan appeared in Collier^s for May 20, 
1916. A somewhat expanded version of the article, Reed’s notes with 
Bryan’s revisions, and the correspondence between them are in the 

‘Tog” did not appear in Scribnefs until Aug., 1919, but, accord- 
ing to John Hall Wheelock, it was accepted in Oct. 1916. “Pyg- 
malion” was bought by the Ne^ Republic but not published; it is 
included in Tamburlaine. Reed’s plans for a workers’ theatre can be 
gathered from various letters to and from him in the L.B.C. They 
were described to me in some detail by Miss Grace Potter. The 



quarrel between the artists and Max Eastman has been described by 
Mr. Eastman in his article, “New Masses for Old’' (Modern 
Monthly, June, 1934). I have supplemented Mr. Eastman's account 
with information received from H. J. Glintenkamp. 

Reed’s conversation with W. A. Neilson is described in a letter 
Reed wrote Louise Bryant and in a letter from Mr. Neilson to me. 
The various letters and telegrams urging Reed to go to Mexico are 
in the L.B.C. The sources of the material on the Provincetown 
Players are: The Provincetonvn Players: A Story of the Theatre, by 
Helen Deutsch and Stella Hanau (New York, 1931); information 
from F. S. Boyd, Louise Bryant, Saxe Commins, Grace Potter, Rob- 
ert Rogers, and Mary Heaton Vorse; articles in the Boston Globe 
for Aug. 13, 1916, the Boston Journal for Aug. 19, and the Boston 
Post for Sept. 10; Susan Glaspell’s The Road to the Temple (New 
York, 1927). The manuscript of “The Eternal Quadrangle” is in 
the L.B.C., as are the manuscripts of all the unpublished stories men- 
tioned in this chapter, Reed’s Bayonne articles appeared in the Trib- 
une for Oct. 28, 1916, and the Metropolitan for Jan., 1917. The 
account of the questions addressed to Hughes appeared in the 
Springfield Republican for Aug. 2, 1916; the appeal to Socialists in 
the New York Times of Oct. 28; Reed's own statement in the 
Minneapolis Nev)S for Oct. 19, and in other papers; a general state- 
ment of the group in the Times for Nov. 3. 

The account of Reed’s hospital experience is based upon his letters 
to Louise Bryant, a summary of the hospital records supplied by Dr. 
F. M. Houck, and information from Eric Parson, Carl Binger, and 
Walter Lippmann. “Hospital Notes” appeared in Poetry for Aug., 
1917. “Two Rooms” was unpublished; the manuscript is in the 

Chapter XIII 

Reed's remarks to Whigham are quoted in Julian Street’s “Soviet 
Saint” (Saturday Evening Post, Sept. 13, 1930). Art Young describes 
his experiences with the Metropolitan in On My Way, p. 261. The 
manuscripts of the articles on Gompers and the Second International 
are in the L.B.C. Grace Potter and Joseph Ellner furnished informa- 
tion about the peace meeting in Washington. Accounts of the hear- 
ings appeared in the newspapers of Apr. 13 and 15, 1917; see also 
Volunteer and Conscription System (Hearings before the House 
Committee on Military Affairs, Apr. 14, 1917)- The letter on con- 
scription appeared in the Call of Apr. 19. The unfinished poem is in 
the L.B.C. Reed described the Hunt’s Point Palace meeting in the 
Masses for Aug., 1917. The Goldman-Berkman trial is described in 
Emma Goldman’s Living My Life (1931) and in the newspapers of 


July 4, 1917. A list of Reed’s articles in the Mail appears in the bib- 
liography. Information about the Mail was given by Arthur Gar- 
field Hays and Sigmund Spaeth. Waldo Frank gave information on 
Reed’s relations with the Seven Arts. “Almost Thirty” is in the 

Chapter XIV 

The report on Reed’s examination for military service and a letter 
regarding his exemption are in the L.B.C. “A Letter from John 
Reed” {Masses, Nov.-Dee., 1917) describes the delay in Halifax. The 
voyage is described in two unpublished articles, “Across the War 
World” and “Scratch a Russian,” in the L.B.C. The description of 
Stockholm appeared in a letter, sent to Robert Hallowell but in- 
tended for publication in the Masses, also in the L.B.C. The dispatch 
from Stockholm appeared in the Call for Sept. 9, 1917. The trip 
from Stockholm to Petrograd is described in “Red Russia— 1 . En- 
trance,” an unpublished manuscript in the L.B.C. 

The letter of Sept. 17 was a personal letter to Boardman Robin- 
son. On the same day Reed sent an article, in the form of a letter to 
Mrs. Robinson. It is from this that the quotation regarding the revo- 
lutionary alignment is taken. Both are in the L.B.C. Mr. Francis de- 
scribes his surveillance of Reed in his Russia from the American Em- 
bassy (1921). The trip to the northern front is described in Reed’s 
article, “Red Russia— A Visit to the Russian Army,” which appeared 
in the Liberator in two parts (Apr. and May, 1918). Reed told 
about the visit to Sestroretzk in “Factory Control in Russia” {Voice 
of Labor, Nov. i, 1919). The article sent Robinson appeared in the 
Call for Dec. 26, 1917. 

Some incidents in this chapter are drawn from the first three chap- 
ters of Ten Days That Shook the World. I have also followed Reed’s 
notebooks, which are in the L.B.C. There are two fragments of note- 
books, containing notes taken in late September and early October, 
and one complete notebook, covering in detail the trip to the north- 
ern front, the interview with Lianozov, the meeting at Obukhovsky 
Zarod, and a session of the Council of the Republic. There are paral- 
lel accounts of some of the events of this chapter in Bessie Beatty’s 
The Red Heart of Russia (1918), Louise Bryant’s Six Red Months 
in Russia (1918), and Albert Rhys Williams’ Through the Russian 
Revolution {1921). 

Chaffer XV 

The chapter follows Chapters III to IX of T en Days That Shook 
the World, often using Reed’s words. These chapters, in turn, fol- 

NOTES 417 

low Reed s notebooks, which are in the L.B.C. Some additional in- 
formation is taken from his articles in the Liberator: ‘‘Red Russia- 
The Triumph of the Bolsheviki” (March); “Red Russia-Kerensky” 
(April); “Kerensky is Coming!” (July). The books by Bryant, 
Beatty, and Williams mentioned above have also been used, together 
with information from Bessie Beatty, Louise Bryant, Alexander 
Gumberg, and Albert Rhys Williams. 

Chapter XVI 

The first section draws on Chapters X, XI, and XII of Ten Days 
That Shook the World and, especially in the description of Moscow, 
on the notebooks in the L.B.C. The Bureau of International Revolu- 
tionary Propaganda is described by Reed in “Foreign Affairs” 
(Liberator^ June, 1918), “How Soviet Russia Conquered Imperial 
Gemany” (Liberator^ Jan., 1919), and “Doctor Rakovsky” (Revo- 
lutionary Age, Jan. 25, 1919), and by Bryant and Williams in their 
books cited above. 

Williams describes the Cirque Modeme meeting in his “The Spirit 
of Internationalism,” in One Year of Revolution (1918). “Skeleton 
Report,” dated Jan. 6, 1918, is in the L.B.C. Reed described the dis- 
solution of the Constituent Assembly in “The Constituent Assembly 
in Russia” {Revolutionary Age, Nov. 30, 1918). Reed’s speech be- 
fore the All-Russian Congress of Soviets was quoted in an account of 
the session in Izvestia for Jan. 24, 1918. This account is translated in 
a footnote on pages 257-8 of Edgar Sisson’s One Hundred Red Days 

The appointment of Reed as consul to New York was announced 
in the New York papers for Jan. 31, 1918. Dosch-Fleurot’s account 
of his conversation with Reed appeared in the New York World, 
Oct. 19, 1920. The Call editorial appeared Jan. 31, and Eastman’s 
article in the Call Feb. 3, 1918. The cancellation of the appointment 
is rather obscure. Ambassador Francis testified regarding it in his 
appearance before the Overman Committee (Brewing and Liquor 
Interests, III, 965). Sisson’s part is described in his book cited above. 
Alexander Gumberg states that his action was not suggested by Sis- 
son, as Sisson maintains, but was undertaken on his owu'Mtiative. 

Documents regarding Reed’s stay in Christiania and the telegrams 
sent him by Bryant and Steffens are in the L.B.C. The “Introduc- 
tion” dated Mar., 1918, is in the L.B.C. Except for three stanzas, 
which appeared in Poetry (Apr., 1919), “America, 1918” remained 
unpublished until it appeared in the New Masses, Oct. 18, 1935. 

Some of the materisJ in this chapter comes from Louise Bryant, 
Wilfred Humphries, Charles Kuntz, Robert Minor, Harrison Smith, 
Graham Taylor, and Albert Rhys Williams. 


Chapter XVII 

Reed’s arrest on his arrival in New York was described in the 
papers of Apr. 29 and 30, 1918. Floyd Dell reported the first Masses 
trial in the Liberator for June. The accounts of Reed’s New York 
speeches are taken from the newspapers, chiefly the Call. His speech 
in Boston was described to me by Robert Rogers, Harry Dana, and 
Lucien Price. His arrest in Philadelphia is recorded in the records of 
the trial (see Chapter XVIII), in the newspapers of June 2 and 3, 
and in the Liberator for July. The account of the Detroit meeting is 
based on information given by Agnes Inglis and Walter Nelson. 

The correspondence regarding his attempts to recover his papers 
is in the L.B.C. Floyd Dell tells of Frank Harris’ proposal in Home- 
coming, page 327; Reed’s prospectus is in the L.B.C. Reed’s letter to 
Steffens is reproduced on page 771 of The Autobiography of Lin- 
coln Steffens. Steffens’ reply is in the L.B.C. Art Young describes 
the trip to Terre Haute and Chicago in On My Way; Reed described 
his Cleveland experiences in an unpublished letter to the Call, lent 
me by Charles Ervin; the chief sources of material on Debs and the 
I.W.W. are, of course, Reed’s two articles in the Sept. Liberator. 

There is some correspondence regarding his resignation from the 
Liberator in the L.B.C. The letters from Haywood, Debs, and Wood 
are in the L.B.C. The Hunt’s Point Palace meeting was reported in 
the papers of Sept. 14 and 15. Reed’s statement appeared in the Call 
for Sept. 16. 

The principal source of material for the description of Reed’s 
testimony in the second Masses trial is the ofiicial transcript of the 
court stenographer’s record. Reed’s article, “About the Second 
Masses Trial,” appeared in the Liberator for Dec. Art Young’s On 
My Way and Floyd Dell’s Homecoming describe the trial. Charles 
Recht not only permitted me to read his unpublished autobiography 
and gave me what information he could but also supplied the tran- 
script of Reed’s testimony at his own expense. Reed mentions the 
trial of the Russians in “About the Second Masses Trial,” and there 
is an article on the subject, very possibly his, in the same issue of the 

Marlen Pew and Floyd Dell have supplied some of the informa- 
tion in this chapter. 

Chapter XVm 

For some of the material on the Sisson documents I am indebted 
to Graham Taylor. Reed’s letter to the Fublic appeared in the issue 
of Oct. 19, 1918. His letters to Upton Sinclaifs are in the issues of 

NOTES 419 

Aug. and Dec., 1918. Accounts of speeches are chiefly taken from 
the Call 

An account of Reed’s speech in Brooklyn on Jan. 10, 1919, ap- 
pears in the report of the Overman committee, Vol. II, pp. 2758- 
2761. This report (Brewing and Liquor Interests and German and 
Bolshevik Propaganda, Report and Hearings of the Subcommittee 
on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Washington, 1919) is the 
source of my account of the hearing. The testimony of Kennedy, 
Tunney, and Stevenson is in Volume II, beginning on page i 66 i. 
The testimony of all those who spoke on Russian conditions is in 
Volume III. Stanley Frost’s article, one of a series on “American 
Bolsheviki” appeared in the New York Tribune for Mar. 27, 1919- 
The editorial, “One Man Who Needs the Rope,” appeared in the 
Jacksonville (Florida) Times-Union for Feb. 24, 1919; a clipping of 
the editorial was lent me by Edward E. Hunt. Reed’s letter to the 
Times was published in the Revolutionary Age for Apr. 12, 1919, 
and in the Call for Apr. 22. 

The account of the Philadelphia trial is based on information from 
F. F. Kane, formerly Mr. Wallerstein’s partner, Mrs. David Waller- 
stein, his widow, and Charlotte Morton, his secretary, and on the 
records of the trial, made available by Mr. Kane. Accounts of the 
trial appeared daily in the Call. 

Some of the material in this chapter comes from interviews with 
or letters from Sherwood Anderson, Roger Baldwin, Maximilian 
Cohen, Paula Holliday, Alfred Kuttner, and Herman Lorber. 

Chapter XIX 

The Shaplen debate was reported in the Call for March 7, and a 
letter from Shaplen appeared in the issue of Mar. 8. Most of the 
documents involved in the rise of the left wing are to be found in 
the Lusk report (Revolutionary Radicalism, Albany, 1920). The files 
of the Revolutionary Age and the New York Communist and Louis 
C. Fraina’s report to the Executive Committee of the Communist 
International (reprinted in Red Radicalism, exhibits collected by A. 
Mitchell Palmer, Washington, 1920) contain much material. 

» Fieldman’s correspondence with Reed and drafts of Reed’s arti- 
cles are in the L.B.C., as are Reed’s letters to and from Louise Bryant 
and his letters from his mother. 

There is a large collection of reviews of Ten Days That Shook the 
World in the L.B.C. Wilfred Humphries and Louis Stark gave me 
information about Reed in Atlantic City. The left-wing conference 
is described in the Lusk report and in Fraina’s report to the E.C.C.I. 
Helen and Carl Walters reported to me incidents of the weeks at 



Truro. Susan Glaspell describes her conversation with Reed in The 
Road to the Te?nple^ p. 302. 

The three conventions are described in the Lusk report, the Cally 
James Oneal’s American Communism (1927), The American Labor 
Year Book, Vol. Ill (1920), Fraina’s report to the E.C.C.L, the 
Communist Labor Tarty Neuos for Sept, and Oct., 1919, Max East- 
man’s '‘The Chicago Conventions” (Liberator, Oct., 1919), William 
Bross Lloyd’s “Convention Impressions” (Class Struggle, Nov., 
1919), and Official Report of the Chicago Convention, by John Reed 
and Benjamin Gitlow. 

Information used in this chapter was supplied by Sherwood An- 
derson, Roger Baldwin, F. S. Boyd, Maximilian Cohen, Louis Fraina, 
Wilfred Humphries, Eadmonn MacAlpine, Scott Nearing, Jeannette 
Pearl, and Howard Scott. 

The following chronological chart may assist the reader in follow- 
ing my account of the early period of Communism in the United 

Nov. 7, 1918. Communist Propaganda League formed in Chicago. 
Nov. 16, 1918. First issue of the Revolutionary Age, published by 
Local Boston of the Socialist Party. 

Feb. 8, 1919. Revohttionary Age publishes program and manifesto 
of the left wing. 

Feb. 15, 1919. Left wing organizes in New York City. 

Mar. 2-6, 1919. First Congress of Third International in Moscow. 
Apr. 19, 1919. First issue of New York Communist, 

May 21, 1919. “The Socialist Task and Outlook,” by Morris Hill- 
quit, appears in New York Call 

May 24-30, 1919. National executive committee of Socialist Party 
meets in Chicago and expels 40,000 members. 

June 21-24, 1919* Left-wing conference in New York City. Majority 
of delegates votes to work within Socialist Party. Minority, rep- 
resenting Slavic federations and Michigan Socialists, withdraws. 
July 5, 1919. New York Communist combines with Revolutionary 
Age, which becomes national organ of left wing. 

July 7, 1919. Slavic federations and Michigan Socialists issue call for 
Communist Party convention. 

July 19, 1919. National organization committee (minority of left- 
wing conference, representing Slavic federations and Michigan 
Socialists) issues the Communist in Chicago. 

July 26-27, 1919. New (unofficial) national executive committee, 
chosen in spring elections (declared illegal by existing national 
executive committee) meets in Chicago. 

Aug. 23, 1919. Majority of national council of the left wing (elected 
at left-wing conference, June 21-24) joins Slavic federations 



and Michigan Socialists in call for Communist Party convention. 
Opposing minority resigns. 

Aug. 30, 1919. National Emergency Convention of Socialist Party. 
Left-wing delegates (including minority of national council of 
the left wing) expelled and sympathizers withdraw. 

3L 1919* Left-wing delegates and sympathizers meet and pro- 
claim their meeting to be true National Emergency Convention. 
Sept. I, 1919. Convention called by Slavic federations, Michigan 
Socialists, and majority of national council of left wing forms 
Communist Party. 

Sept. 2, 1919. Left-wing delegates and sympathizers form Commu- 
nist Labor Party. 

May, 1920. The Communist Labor Party and a majority of the 
Communist Party combine to form the United Communist 
Party. A minority of the Communist Party calls itself the Com- 
munist Party. 

Chapter XX 

George N. Falconer, Martha Foley, Don Marquis, Isidor Schnei- 
der, and Carlo Tresca have reported to me incidents of the three 
weeks between Reed’s arrival in New York and his departure for 
Russia. The letters to Louise Bryant are in the L.B.C. An unfinished 
article, in the L.B.C., describes Reed’s arrival in Finland. 

Angelica Balahonova describes Reed in Russia in an article, “J<^hn 
Reed, Poet and Revolutionist,” a translation of which is in the L.B.C. 
Part of this article was reproduced in the souvenir program of the 
John Reed memorial meeting, Oct. 17, 1921. An article in the New 
York World of Aug. ii, 1921, based on information “from a source 
that is beyond question as to authority,” also dealt with the winter 
of 1919-20. Most of my material, however, is drawn from Reed’s 
notebooks in the L.B.C. and from his article, “Soviet Russia Now,” 
in the Liberator for Dec., 1920, and Jan., 1921. The notebooks 
contain much more material than the article, especially the account 
of the trip to the Volga. 

In Living Ady Life (pp- 739“4^)j Emma Goldman speaks of Reeds 
coming to see her soon after her arrival in Moscow in January. She 
reports that he was planning to return by way of Latvia. In the 
Liberator for Dec., 1920, he describes a trip to the Latvian front. 
With no more evidence than Miss Goldman’s statement, I have 
assumed that this trip was part of an unsuccessful attempt to leave 
Russia. Louise Bryant’s correspondence with the State Department, 
Reed’s letters to her, and his letters to Madame Malmberg are in the 
L.B.C. These are the principal sources for this episode. William 
Hard described for me his conversation with Baruch. Eadmonn Mac- 


Alpine reported the story of the exchange of prisoners, which he 
had heard from Reed in Russia. 

The account of Reed’s writings while in jail is based on a number 
of assumptions. One of the fragments of ‘‘The Ever-Victorious” is 
written on the back of a copy of a telegram sent from Abo, and the 
sheet is stamped with the prison seal. The notes for the two novels 
were, internal evidence shows, made after the fall of 1919. The chief 
reason for thinking they were made in Abo is that they are on the 
rather peculiar kind of squared paper on which all his prison letters 
were written. “A Letter to Louise” was written in the spring of 1920 
and therefore presumably in Finland, though possibly after his return 
to Moscow. 

Chapter XXI 

Reed described his impressions of Moscow and Petrograd in June 
and July in his article for the Liberator, Emma Goldman speaks of 
Reed’s return from Finland in My Disillusionment in Russia (1923), 
My Further Disillusionment in Russia (1924), and Living My Life 
(1931). Her statement that he felt his life had been needlessly jeop- 
ardized, made only in the latest of these three accounts, is not sup- 
ported by information from other sources. The letters to Louise 
Bryant are in the L.B.C. 

Jacob Rubin in I Live to Tell (1934) has stated that in June, 1920, 
Reed confessed to him that he was no longer a Communist. The 
events described in this chapter are sufficient refutation of this story, 
but doubt is also cast on it by: i) the extremely questionable nature 
of much of the other material in the book; 2) the implausibility of 
Reed’s making such a confession to Rubin, who was posing as a Bol- 
shevik sympatliizer, rather than to, say, Emma Goldman, who was 
opposed to the regime; 3) Rubin’s ignorance of Reed’s movements, 
as shown in his statement that Reed spent the summer in the Cau- 
casus; 4) the unlikelihood of Reed’s having made certain of the 
statements Rubin attributes to him, e.g., “In the United States I 
hated the capitalist system, but I was at liberty to get up on a street 
corner and express myself.” The story would not even be worth 
bothering to contradict if it had not been given wide publicity by 
the Associated Press. 

The account of the Comintern congress is based on Reed’s article, 
“The World Congress of the Communist International,” published 
in the Communist, #10 (no date), on the stenographic report. Pro- 
tokolle des II Kongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale 
(Moscow, 1920), on The Second Congress of the Communist Inter-’ 
national (translations of reports in the Russian papers, published by 
the division of Russian affairs of the State Department, Washington, 



1920), and on Statutes, Theses, Etc. of the Communist International 
(Chicago, 1923). Reed’s speech on the Negro question is given in 
full m The Second Congress of the Communist Intermtional, pp. 
151-4, and was commented upon in the New York Tribune for Nov. 
27, 1920. Information regarding Reed’s part in the congress was 
given me by Louis C. Fraina, Eadmonn MacAlpine, Owen W. Pen- 
ney, and a delegate to the congress who does not wish to have his 
name revealed. 

Translations of relevant portions of the official stenographic re- 
port of the Congress of Oriental Nations have been furnished me by 
friends. The incident of the return trip was described by Michael 
Gold in his column in the Daily Worker for Oct. 14, 1935. Louise 
Bryant describes the last month of Reed’s life in her article, “Last 
Days with John Reed” (Liberator, Feb., 1921) and in her letter to 
Mrs. Reed, a copy of which was lent me by E. E. Hunt. The quo- 
tation from Clare Sheridan’s diary is taken from her Mayfair to 
Moscow (1921), in which there is also a description of Reed’s fu- 
neral. Emma Goldman describes the funeral in the works cited 
above, and Alexander Berkman in The Bolshevik Myth (1925). I am 
indebted for other information to Louis C. Fraina and Wilfred 
Humphries. The ofhcial medical report was printed in the New 
York Call for Nov. 3, 1920. Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, 
Marguerite Harrison (in Marooned in Moscow, 1921) and M. 
Schwartz (in an interview printed in the New York Tribune for 
Jan. 12, 1921) all mention the fact that Reed received the best medi- 
cal attention that was possible under existing circumstances. 




I. Books and Pamphlets 

Diana^s Debut, Lyrics by J. S. Reed, music by Walter S. Langshaw. Cam- 
bridge: privately printed- 1910. 

Sangar. Riverside, Conn.: Frederick C. Bursch. 1913. 

The Day in Bohemia, or Life Among the Artists, Riverside, Conn.: privately 
printed- 1913. 

Every magazine, An Immorality Play. Words by Jack Reed, music by Bill 
Daly. New York: privately printed. 1913. 

Insurgent Mexico. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 1914. 

The War in Eastern Europe. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916. 
Abridged edition, ibid., 1919. 

Tamburlaine. Riverside, Conn.: Frederick C. Bursch. 1917. 

The Sisson Documents. New York: Liberator Publishing Company. 1918. 

Ten Days That Shook the World. New York: Boni and Liveright. 1919. New 
York: International Publishers. 1926. New York: Modem Library. 1935. 

Daughter of the Revolution, edited by Floyd Dell. New York: Vanguard 
Press. 1927. 

2. Plays 

“Moondown,” Masses, Sept., 1913. 

“Freedom,” in The Provincetovm Plays, Second Series (New York, 1916) 
and A Treasury of Plays for Men, edited by Frank Shay (Boston, 1923). 
“The Peace That Passeth Understanding,” Liberator, Mar., 1919, 

3, Poems 

(Those marked with an asterisk are reprinted in Tamburlaine.') 

“In Memoriam (Anson Hard Boulton),” Morristonian, Mar., 1905. 

“The Storm at Midnight,” Morristonian, Apr., 1905. 

“The Violin,” Morristonian, June, 1905. 

“Twilight,” Morristonian, Dec., 1905. 

“Thermopylae,” Morristonian, Dec., 1905, 



‘‘Sonnet to a Daisy (Apologies to Milton),” Morristonian, Jan., 1906. 
“Diodotus’ Speech in Defense of the People of Mytilene,” Morristonian, 
Feb., 1906. 

“Morning,” Morristonian, Mar., 1906. 

“To Thee,” Morristonian, Mar., 1906. 

“A Dedication,” Morristonian, June, 1906. 

“Lines to Tennyson,” Morristonian, June, 1906. 

“Lost,” Morristonian, June, 1906. 

“Guinevere,” Harvard Monthly, July, 1907. 

^ “October,” Pacific Monthly, Oct., 1907. 

“Tschaikowsky,” Harvard Monthly, Oct., 1907. (Reprinted in Selected Poems 
from the Harvard Monthly, 188S-1910, Cambridge, 1910.) 

“Pan,” Morristonian, Jan., 1908. 

“The Tempest,” Harvard Monthly, Jan., 1908. 

“California,” Harvard Monthly, Feb., 1908. 

* “The Desert,” Harvard Monthly, Apr., IPOS’. 

“Night,” Pacific Monthly, May, 1908. 

“The West,” Harvard Advocate, June 15, 1908. 

“The Dancing Woman,” Harvard Monthly, Oct., 1908. 

* “Coyote Song,” Harvard Monthly, Oct., 1908. 

“The Sea-Gull,” Harvard Advocate, Oct., i6, 1908. 

“A Winter Run,” Harvard Illustrated Magazine, Jan., 1909. 

“The Sword Dance,” Harvard Monthly, Feb., 1909. 

“Dear Heart,” Harvard Monthly, Mar., 1909. 

“And Yet—,” Harvard Monthly, Mar., 1909. 

* “Forgotten” (Adapted from the French of Heredia), Harvard Monthly, 

May, 1909. Also American Magazine, Dec., 1911. 

“Flowers of Fire” (Adapted from the French of Heredia), Harvard Monthly, 
May, 1909. 

“De Profundo,” Harvard Monthly, Oct., 1909. 

“Melisande,” Harvard Monthly, Nov., 1909. 

“Score” (Words for song by J. W. Adams). Sheet music, Cambridge, 1909. 
“Wanderlust,” Harvard Monthly, May, 1910. 

“Willamette,” Pacific Monthly, July, 1910. 

* “The Wanderer to His Heart’s Desire,” American Magazine, Aug., 1911. 
*“The Foundations of a Sky-Scraper,” American Magazine, Oct., 1911. 
“Revolt,” International, Jan., 1912. 

* “The Slave” (Adapted from the French of Heredia) , American Magazine, 

Feb., 1912. 

“The Tenement Qothes Line,” New York Mail, Apr. 24, 1912. (Reprinted in 
The Day in Bohemia.) 

* “June in the City,” American Magazine, June, 1912. 

•“This Magazine of Ours,” American Magazine, July, 1912. 

* “The Wedding Ring,” American Magazine, Aug., 1912. 

* “Sangar,” Poetry, Dec., 1912. (Published in booklet form by F. C. Bursch, 

Riverside, Conn., 1913. Reprinted in Monroe and Henderson, The New 

* “Tamburlaine,” American Magazine, Jan,, 1913. 



* “A Hymn to Manhattan ” American Magazine^ Feb., 1913. (Reprinted in The 

Day in Bohemia.) 

* “Deep-Water Song,” Century ^ Mar., 1913. 

^ “April,” American Magazine, Apr., 1913. 

* “A Song for May,” American Magazine, May, 1913. 

* “A Farmer’s Woman,” Masses, July, 1913. (Reprinted in May Days, edited by 

Genevieve Taggard.) 

“Noon,” Collier’s, July 26, 1913. 

“The Great Adventure,” Nev7 York Tress, Oct. 26, 1913. 

* “Winter Night,” American Magazine, Jan., 1914. 

* “Love At Sea,” Masses, May, 1916. 

* “To Max Eastman,” Hillacre Broadside, 1916 (?). 

“Hospital Notes,” Poetry, Aug., 1917. 

‘Troud New York,” Poetry, Apr., 1919. (Reprinted in Poetry, Jan., 1921, and 
in Monroe and Henderson, The New Poetry.) 

“Fog,” Scribner’s, Aug., 1919. (Reprinted in the Liberator, Dec., 1920, and in 
May Days, edited by Genevieve Taggard.) 

“America, 1918,” New Masses, Oct. 15, 1935, 

4. Short Stories and Sketches 

(Those marked with an asterisk are reprinted in Daughter of the Revolution.) 

“A Typical Yankee Tale,” Morristonian, Nov., 1904. 

“The Transformation,” Morristonian, Jan., 1905. 

“Atlantis,” Morristonian, May, 1905. 

“The End of the World,” Morristonian, Dec., 1905. 

“The Tragedy of a Mild-Mannered Man,” Morristonian, Jan., 1906. 

“The Conspiracy,” Morristonian, June, 1906. 

“Bacchanal,” Harvard Monthly, June, 1907. 

“The Red Hand,” Harvard Monthly, Apr., 1908. 

“Inlinities,” Pacific Monthly, Oct., 1908. 

“From Clatsop to Nekamey,” Harvard Monthly, Dec., 1908. 

“The Pharaoh,” Harvard Monthly, Jan., 1909. 

“The Singing Gates,” Harvard Monthly, Feb., 1909. 

“The Winged Stone,” Harvard Monthly, Apr., 1909. 

“In England’s Need,” Harvard Monthly, Jan. and Feb., 1910. 

“East is East and West is West,” Harvard Monthly, Oct., 1910. 

o-,.: r? \ — 


* “Seeing is Believing,” Masses, Dec., 1913. 

“Mac— American,” Masses, Apr., 1914. 

* “The Englishman. A War Correspondent’s Wondering Observation,” Metro- 

politan, Oct., 1914. 

“The Cook and the Captain Bold,” Metropolitan, Nov., 1914. 

* “Daughter of the Revolution,” Masses, Feb., 1915. 

“The Barber of Lille,” Metropolitan, July, 1915. 

* “The Rights of Small Nations,” New Republic, Nov. 27, 1915. 

* “The World Well Lost,” Masses, Feb., 1916. 

* “The Capitalist,” Masses, Apr., 1916. 

* “Broadway Night,” Masses, May, 1916. 

* “The Head of the Family,” Metropolitan, May, 1916. 

“Dynamite,” Collier^s, Aug. 26, Sept. 2, 9, 16, 1916. 

“The Last Clinch,” Metropolitan, Nov., 1916. 

* “Endymion, or On the Border,” Masses, Dec., 1916. 

“The Buccaneer’s Grandson,” Metropolitan, Jan., 1917. 

“A Friend at Court,” Masses, May, 1917. 

5. Articles 

(Those marked with an asterisk are reprinted in Insurgent Mexico; those 
marked with two asterisks are reprinted in The War in Eastern Europe.) 

“Immigrants,” Colliefs, May 20, 1911. 

“The Involuntary Etliics of Big Business, A Fable for Pessimists,” Trend, June, 

“A Reminiscence,” American Magazine, Nov., 1911. 

“Charles Townsend Copeland,” American Magazine, Nov., 1911. 

“Frederick Muir,” American Magazine, Apr., 1912. 

“Joseph E. Ralph,” American Magazine, Oct., 1912. 

“War in Paterson,” Masses, June, 1913. 

“From Omaha to Broadway,” Metropolitan, July, 1913. 

“Sheriff RadclifF’s Hotel,” Metropolitan, Sept., 1913. 

“With Villa in Mexico,” Metropolitan, Feb., 1914. 

“The Causes Behind Mexico’s Revolution,” New York Times, Apr. 27, 1914. 
(Reprinted as a pamphlet, June, 1914, by The American Association for 
International Conciliation, with an introduction by Professor John Bates 

* “With La Tropa,” Metropolitan, Apr., 1914. 

* “The Battle of La Cadena,” Metropolitan, May, 1914. 

* “Francisco Villa— The Man of Destiny,” Metropolitan, June, 1914. 

“What About Mexico?” Masses, June, 1914. 

“If We Enter Mexico,” Metropolitan, June, 1914. 

* “With ViHa on the March,” Metropolitan, July, 1914. 

“The Colorado War,” Metropolitan, July, 1914. 

* “Happy Valley,” Masses, July, 1914. 

* “The Batde,” Metropolitan, Aug., 1914. 

* “Jiminez and Beyond,” Masses, Aug., 1914. 

“The Traders’ War,” Masses, Sept. 1914. (Unsigned.) 

* “Carranza— An Impression,” Metropolitan, Sept., 1914. 


* “El Cosmopolita Metropolitan, Sept., 1914. 

“The Approach to War,” Metropolitan, Nov., 1914. 

“Notes on the War,” Masses, Nov., 1914. (Unsigned.) 

“With the Allies,” Metropolitan, Dec., 1914. 

“German France,” Metropolitan, Mar., 1915. 

“The Worst Thing in Europe,” Masses, Mar., 1915, 

“In the German Trenches,” Metropolitan, Apr., 1915. 

“Back of Billy Sunday,” Metropolitan, May, 1915. 

** “Serbia Between Battles,” Metropolitan, Aug., 1915. 

** “At the Serbian Front,” Metropolitan, Oct., 1915. 

** “Breaking Into Bucovina,” Metropolitan, Nov., 1915. 

** “The Burning Balkans,” Metropolitan, Dec., 1915. 

“The Jew on the Eastern Front,” in The Book of Exile, New York, 1916. 

** “Constantinople The Great,” Metropolitan, Jan., 1916. 

** “Behind the Russian Retreat,” Metropolitan, Mar., 1916. 

=»# “Pinched in Poland,” Metropolitan, May, 1916. 

“Bryan on Tour,” Collier^s, May 20, 1916. 

“The Mexican Tangle,” Masses, June, 1916. 

“Persecution of Mexican Refugees,” Masses, June, 1916. 

** “Holy Russia,” Metropolitan, July, 1916. 

“At the Throat of the Republic,” Masses, July, 1916. 

“Roosevelt Sold Them Out,” Masses, Aug., 1916. 

“The National Circus,” Metropolitan, Sept., 1916. 

“Industry’s Miracle Maker,” Metropolitan, Oct., 1916. 

“Why They Hate Ford,” Masses, Oct., 1916. 

“An Heroic Pacifist,” Masses, Nov., 1916. 

Introduction to Crimes of Charity, by Konrad Bercovici, New York, 1917. 
“Industrial Frightfulness in Bayonne,” Metropolitan, Jan., 1917. 

“Whose War?” Masses, Apr., 1917, 

“Russia,” Masses, May, 1917. 

“The Myth of American Fatness,” Masses, July, 1917. 

“Militarism at Play,” Masses, Aug., 1917. 

“This Unpopular War,” Seven Arts, Aug., 1917. 

“One Solid Month of Liberty,” Masses, Sept., 1917. 

“News from France,” Masses, Oct., 1917. (With Louise Bryant.) 

“A Letter from John Reed,” Masses, Nov.-Dee., 1917. 

“Red. Russia— The Triumph of the Bolsheviki,” Liberator, Mar., 1918. 

“Red Russia— Kerensky,” Liberator, Apr., 1918. 

“Red Russia— A Visit to the Russian Army,” Liberator, Apr. and May, 1918. 
“A Message to Liberator Readers,” Liberator, June, 1918. 

“Foreign Affairs,” Liberator, June, 1918. 

“Recognize Russia,” Liberator, July, 1918. 

“The Case for the Bolsheviki,” Independent, July 13, 1918. 

“Kerensky is Coming!” Liberator, July, 1918. 

“John Reed vs. Maxim Gorky,” Upton Sinclair's, Aug., 1918. 

“How the Russian Revolution Works,” Liberator, Aug., 1918. 

“The Social Revolution in Court,” Liberator, Sept., 1918. 

“With Gene Debs on the Fourth,” Liberator, Sept., 1918. 

“On Intervention in